Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian in West Bank

Even amidst an unprecedented global pandemic, Israel’s occupation forces continue their violence against Palestinians.

Israeli forces fatally shot a Palestinian man in the head near the entrance of the occupied West Bank village of Nilin on Sunday.

The Israeli army claimed that Sufian Khawaja was hurling stones at vehicles when he was shot dead.

Pictures of Khawaja and his family were circulated by Palestinian media:

Another Palestinian, said to be Khawaja’s cousin, was reportedly injured in the same incident but escaped.

A vehicle was damaged, according to The Times of Israel, but no Israelis were reported injured, as in many previous cases in which an alleged Palestinian attacker was killed.

Israeli forces reportedly prevented an ambulance from reaching Khawaja to provide treatment. Occupation forces habitually deny first aid to Palestinians they shoot, causing them to bleed to death.

The Palestinian Authority foreign ministry condemned the killing of Khawaja, saying Israel has turned its soldiers into “mobile killing machines, and defenseless Palestinian civilians into targets for shooting and training.”

The ministry said it will pursue Khawaja’s killing and other crimes at the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council.

“The horror of this crime stands out amidst the coronavirus pandemic,” the ministry stated.

Despite such condemnations, the Palestinian Authority has since its founding in the early 1990s maintained close cooperation with Israeli occupation forces, under the banner of “security coordination.”

Both major Palestinian political factions – Fatah, which dominates the Palestinians Authority, and Hamas, the resistance organization running the interior of the besieged Gaza Strip – condemned the slaying.

Israel is now withholding Khawaja’s body.

Israel routinely withholds the remains of Palestinians slain by occupation forces to use them as bargaining chips in future negotiations and as collective punishment.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian vehicle with stones on Monday, smashing its windows, near the northern West Bank town of Silat al-Dahr.

Settlers enjoy near-total impunity for violence against Palestinians and their property.

Raids and arrests

Meanwhile, Israel is escalating its incursions in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyeh despite the global health crisis.

Israel intensified its assaults on Issawiyeh residents last summer, conducting raids, arbitrary arrests, demolitions and routine harassment of the neighborhood’s residents.

Border police and army soldiers habitually conduct raids and arrest children, interrogating them without family members or attorneys present:

Now, abuse by Israeli police is “a permanent feature of life in the neighborhood,” according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Recent raids particularly jeopardize public health in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“At this sensitive time, such conduct exposes residents to substantial, completely unnecessary health risks, as it encourages gatherings and forces arrested residents, including many minors, to leave home and be around strangers,” B’Tselem said.

Demolitions

While the Israeli government takes new measures to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, it still has the will and finds the resources to oppress Palestinians.

Israeli occupation forces demolished an old stone structure and a barn in al-Sawahreh, southwest of occupied Jerusalem on Thursday.

The structures, demolished under the pretext of carrying out restoration work and without prior warning, reportedly belonged to the family of Salim Zahaykeh.

Local media circulated pictures of Israeli occupation forces carrying out the demolition:

Meanwhile, dozens of Israelis entered the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, amongst them Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick, last week.

Glick is a leading figure in the Jewish extremist movement, supported by many prominent Israeli leaders, to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque and replace it with a Jewish temple.

The Islamic Waqf – the body responsible for Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem – called on worshippers to adhere to coronavirus preventive measures but didn’t suspend prayers until Palestinian Authority prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced a lockdown on the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Gaza on the brink

Two people tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

These were the first confirmed cases in Gaza.

While the pair were already in quarantine when diagnosed, 29 people they came into contact with were placed in compulsory quarantine as well.

Fears of an outbreak loom heavy on the enclave’s two million people, living in one of the most densely populated places in the world.

This comes on top of dire conditions which the UN predicted in 2015 would make Gaza uninhabitable by 2020.

Gaza’s economy and health infrastructure have been brought to the brink of collapse by three major Israeli military assaults since 2008 and a 13-year blockade.

There are currently only 70 intensive care hospital beds in Gaza and, according to a UN expert, supplies of vital medicines remain at “chronically low” levels.

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Khawaja throws stones so the Israeli's shoot him in the head. The disproportion is illustrative. It has long been the Israeli doctrine that any perceived threat should be responded to by maximum violence. What might be a sensible response to a stone-thrower: a warning; a conversation; at the very most an order forbidding the thrower's presence in the same area again. To shoot a stone-thrower in the head is literal lunacy. It is the response of the paranoid. Israel is driving itself further and further into madness through these kinds of actions. A sane response is proportionate. Israel's inability to find that proportion flows from its informing ideology: the assumption of Jewish superiority (which is racism) and the reduction of Arabs to "two-legged beasts". The tragedy is that this will destroy Israel and be a permanent taint on those Jews who support it. True friends of Jews must be critical. To watch a country descend into the madness of paranoia and say nothing is not friendship but betrayal. One more death in the long history of deaths resulting from a false world view. There may be many more if Israel doesn't act over Gaza and Covid. Testing, tracing and isolating are the ways to stop the disease. The situation in Gaza could spell disaster. If that happens a tiny stand of RNA wrapped in a bit of protein coated in a bit of fat may turn Israel into an international pariah: no one, not even the Zionist lobby in the US wants to see thousands of preventable deaths and if they happen the Israeli narrative that Arab terrorism is to blame won't convince even Trump. Covid is forcing us to the humanitarianism which should be commonplace; if Israel doesn't find its way to it, the worldwide condemnation will be severe. Shoot a stone-thrower in the head and the world may not notice, let thousands die for want of sensible policy and action and Israel my find Covid is a bigger enemy than the PLO ever was.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.