According to Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz website Sunday evening:
“Six armed Palestinians were killed by Border Police undercover troops in the West Bank town of Tul Karm on Sunday… Military sources said the six were members of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and were on their way to carry out a terror attackï¿½ A gunbattle ensued in which six of the militants were killed, including two local leaders of the group.”
This Ha’aretz description bears little resemblance to what happened on the ground. Six Palestinians were assassinated 100 meters from the ISM apartment where three ISM volunteers were staying at the time. Only two of the six Palestinians assassinated were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. According to reliable sources in Tulkarem, the other four were simply bystanders.
The Ha’aretz account, which relies on Israeli military sources, distorts reality by portraying all the victims as members of the armed resistance, by suggesting that Palestinians opened fire and were about to carry out a “terror attack”, by failing to note the killing of four Palestinians not involved with armed resistance, and the wounding of at least three others and the subsequent denial of access for Palestinian medical personnel.
This account in Ha’aretz, probably the most reputable Israeli newspaper, presents an inaccurate description to Israelis and to the world of Israeli military operations in the Occupied Territories and of how Palestinians experience Israeli military occupation. The Ha’aretz account is complicit in covering up brutal Israeli military killings of four Palestinians who were not involved in armed resistance. The hundreds of stories of this type that are printed every year, in which every Palestinian killed is a “militant” on his way to carry out a “terror attack”, suggest an entirely different reality from what occurs on the ground daily. This type of one-sided reporting dehumanizes Palestinians and covers up Israeli military crimes rather than increasing readers’ knowledge and understanding.
1. “Six members of Al Aqsa Brigades”
Of the six who were assassinated, only two were members of the Al Aqsa Brigades. Hani Awaida (27 years old) and Mahdi Tambouz (25) were well-known leaders of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Tulkarem who the Israeli military had tried to kill or capture many times. For example, about three weeks ago ISM volunteers visited a barber shop shortly after six Palestinians were arrested (including two barbers) by Israeli soldiers only minutes after Mahdi had left the shop. All said that the soldiers were looking for Mahdi that day.
Sayed Abu Qumra (24 years old) and Ahmed Barouq (26), both killed, were both civilians who happened to be in the area visiting friends. They had no relationship to armed resistance.
Abderrahim Hassan Shadid (34) was also killed. He was an agent in the Palestinian security services who may have been walking through the area to go to a nearby police station. He was reportedly on his cellphone with colleagues telling them that something was happening when the line went dead.
18-year-old Mohammed Shanti was our next door neighbor. He had just succeeded in passing his high school graduation exam a few weeks ago. Mohammed had no relationship with the Palestinian resistance.
2. “A gunbattle ensued”
From 100 meters away ISMers heard all the shooting. There was one long burst of shooting, a short burst, and then minutes later another medium length burst. The sound of all the gunshots was the same. They were all fired from the same type of weapon, all Israeli weapons. There was no sound of shooting from Palestinian weapons. Witnesses confirmed that there was no Palestinian shooting, saying that the six were shot suddenly and at close range by Israeli special forces in a Palestinian-plated car before any of them could react.
3. “Six armed Palestinians”
Two of the six may have been armed. Though witnesses saw no evidence of weapons, Palestinian sources suggests that it is possible that Mahdi and Hani were armed at the time, as they frequently were armed. If they had any weapons, the Israeli army must have taken them as there were no weapons near the bodies when soldiers withdrew.
Security agent Abderrahim Shadid was unarmed, as were the other three bystanders who were killed.
4. “On their way to carry out a terror attack”
Awaida and Tambouz were standing by the side of the street eating when they were assassinated. The Israeli army has tried multiple times over the last months to kill Awaida and Tambouz, who are members of the Palestinian armed resistance. There is no reason to believe that at the moment they were killed they were about to carry out an attack. This just happened to be the moment when soldiers were, once again, tipped off by a collaborator as to their whereabouts.
In addition to failing to note that four of the six Palestinians assassinated were bystanders with no involvement in armed resistance, Ha’aretz did not report on these points:
5. Israeli soldiers deny access for Palestinians medical personnel
The Israeli military prevented Palestinian medical personnel from reaching the area and treating the men who were shot for at least 20ï¿½30 minutes. For at least 15 of those minutes, three ISMers wearing florescent orange vests were standing in view of an Israel soldier and about 70 meters from and in view of the body of 18 year old Mohammed Shanti, who was dying in the street.
The ISMers shouted that he needed medical care. In response, at one point, an Israeli soldier aimed his laser rifle sight at the chest of an ISMer.
6. Three other civilians wounded by Israeli gunfire
In addition to the assassination of four individuals with no involvement in armed resistance, at least three other civilians were wounded by the random Israeli gunfire. Ten-year-old Mohsen Na’im was shot in the leg. 60-year-old Khalil Zeidan was shot in the back while sitting on the street, and 19-year-old Hashim Jarrad was shot in the wrist while attempting to seek cover inside
his uncle’s barber shop.
I don’t think we will have the heart to tell our neighbors that Ha’aretz reported to the world that their assassinated eighteen-year-old son, Mohammed — who just graduated from high school and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — was a dangerous terrorist.
This report was written by members of the Tulkarem team of the International Solidarity Movement, names withheld upon request.