The Electronic Intifada 3 March 2023
Israeli occupation forces and settlers killed 28 Palestinians in the West Bank during February – an average of one fatality per day – according to The Electronic Intifada’s tracking based on reports from media outlets and human rights groups.
Seven Israelis were killed during what occupation authorities said were attacks by Palestinians during the month. That figure includes a police officer who was shot by an Israeli civilian guard after he was allegedly stabbed by a 13-year-old Palestinian in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem on 13 February.
Tor Wennesland, the UN secretary-general’s Middle East envoy, told the Security Council in late February that “we are witnessing a surge in violence, including some of the deadliest incidents in nearly 20 years.”
A coalition of Palestinian civil society groups meanwhile urged the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor to “urgently issue a preventive statement to deter the commission of more crimes by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians.”
More than half of all Palestinian fatalities in February occurred during two separate raids.
Five Palestinians were reportedly killed during a raid in Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho on 6 February. The deadly raid followed a 10-day siege after what Israel said was an attempted shooting attack during which a Palestinian allegedly fired one bullet at a road junction.
Israel announced that five were killed and three were arrested during the raid. But the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq said that “the actual fate of those Palestinians remains unknown as Israel continues to withhold the bodies of those killed” and those arrested were “illegally transferred” into Israel.
Eleven people were killed during a daytime incursion into Nablus’ city center on 22 February – the single deadliest Israeli operation in the West Bank since the UN began tracking data in 2005.
The second most deadly Israeli operation during that period occurred in January, when occupation forces killed 9 Palestinians in Jenin refugee camp; a 10th person later died from his injuries.
Among those killed during the Nablus raid were a boy and at least two men over the age of 60 and three armed resistance activists who were apparently extrajudicially executed when Israel applied the pressure cooker procedure on a structure in which they were hiding.
Video documentation of the raid shows Israel using lethal force against Palestinians in an apparently wanton manner. Dozens of Palestinians were injured by live fire.
Sixty-seven Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, or died from injuries sustained previously, according to The Electronic Intifada’s monitoring.
On 3 February, Abdullah Qalalweh, 25, was shot and killed by soldiers after he reportedly ran towards them at Huwwara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus and didn’t heed their commands to stop.
On 7 February, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 16-year-old Hamza Amjad Yousif Ashqar as Palestinian youth confronted occupation forces during a raid in Nablus.
Two days later, Sharif Hasan Rabbaa, 22, was shot and killed after allegedly attempting to stab soldiers in Fawwar refugee camp near the West Bank city of Hebron.
On 10 February, Hussein Qaraqe was apparently extrajudicially executed by an off-duty police officer after he crashed his car into a group of people at a bus stop in Ramot, a settlement in the occupied West Bank north of Jerusalem.
Three Israelis, including two children, were killed in addition to Qaraqe. Israel alleges that the crash was a car ramming attack but the driver’s family said that Qaraqe lived with severe psychological difficulties resulting from a fall from a crane years earlier.
Qaraqe was released from a psychiatric ward after experiencing a psychotic episode in the days before the deadly crash. A relative told Israeli media that Qaraqe was heavily medicated and denied that it was a “terror attack,” as claimed by Israeli authorities.
On 11 February, 27-year-old Mithqal Suleiman Rayyan was shot in the head and killed by a settler in Qarawat Bani Hassan, a town near Salfit. The town’s mayor said that settlers, who frequently attack the community, had provoked residents, who attempted to defend themselves by throwing stones.
Palestinians in Qarawat Bani Hassan told Israeli media that witnesses who can identify the settlers who killed Rayyan were not interviewed by Israeli authorities.
The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din points to “a longstanding systemic failure” by Israeli authorities in response to settler violence against Palestinians.
The following day, an Israeli sniper shot and killed Qusai Radwan Yousif Waked, 14, during a daytime raid in Jenin refugee camp. The teen, who was unarmed, was standing some 100 feet between three armed men “when an Israeli sniper exchanged fire” with the latter, according to Defense for Children International-Palestine.
Another Palestinian, 21-year-old Amir Bustami, was shot and killed during a raid in Nablus on 13 February.
The following day, an Israeli sniper shot and killed 17-year-old Majid Muhammad Ayed while Palestinians confronted raiding occupation forces in al-Faraa refugee camp near Nablus.
Also on 14 February, Harun Abu Aram, 25, died from injuries sustained when he was shot by Israeli soldiers in the Masafer Yatta area south of Hebron in 2021. Abu Aram and others were trying to take back an electricity generator that soldiers had confiscated from a family when he was paralyzed by an Israeli bullet.
On 20 February, two days before Israel’s deadly raid in Nablus, 16-year-old Muntaser Muhammad Deeb Shawa died from wounds sustained while he was participating in confrontations against Israeli soldiers during an incursion in Balata refugee camp on 8 February. Soldiers had raided the Nablus area in order to escort Israeli settlers to Joseph’s Tomb, a flashpoint of deadly occupation violence.
Another Palestinian, 30-year-old Ahmad Nabil Sabah, died on 23 February after being shot in the stomach during a raid in Jenin on 12 February. Sabah was reportedly a fighter with the Jenin Brigade.
On 24 February, 22-year-old Ahmad Jawabreh died one day after being shot by Israeli forces during confrontations in Arroub refugee camp near Hebron.
Sameh Aqtash, 37, was killed in Huwwara, near Nablus, on 26 February as hundreds of settlers attacked the town, hours after two Israelis were shot dead by a Palestinian assailant who has evaded capture.
Aqtash’s family contends that he was killed by soldiers.
Days before he was killed, Aqtash had returned from Turkey, where he was volunteering to support earthquake victims.
Two other Palestinians were shot and wounded during the rampage, another was stabbed and another beaten with an iron bar. Nearly 100 Palestinians were injured as a result of inhaling tear gas fired by the military.
During their eight-hour siege on Huwwara, Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian homes and businesses, as well as trees and vehicles. The Israeli military “facilitated” the attack, according to Al-Haq, “by closing off all the entrances to the town in advance” and by “permitting the entrance of hundreds of settlers by foot and preventing the entry of medics and journalists.”
Earlier in the day, a settler leader put out a call for Huwwara to be “wiped out.” The settler leader’s tweet – which was liked by Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, newly appointed to head the civil administration in the West Bank – stated that “the deterrence that was lost must return now, there’s no room for mercy.”
The call to “wipe out” Huwwara was repeated by Smotrich and Zvika Fogel, a lawmaker in the former’s Jewish Power party, in the following days.
One day after the attack in Huwwara, Elan Ganeles, a 27-year-old dual US-Israeli citizen and Israeli army veteran, was shot and killed while driving in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank.
On 1 March, 22-year-old Mahmoud Jamal Hasan Hamdan was shot and killed during a raid into Aqbat Jaber refugee camp, which had been under siege following the slaying of Ganeles.
Israeli authorities said that “two suspects” in the killing of Ganeles were captured during the raid.
And on 2 March, Israeli forces shot and killed 17-year-old Muhammad Nidal Ibrahim Salim in the town of Azzoun, near the West Bank city of Qalqilya. Defense for Children International-Palestine said that the teen was the 14th Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year.
Also during February, a 75-year-old Israeli man died eight months after he was injured by an ax blow to his head during an attack in Elad, a city in Israel. His death brings to four the number of people who were allegedly slain by two Palestinians who were arrested after a 60-hour manhunt.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian prisoner died in Israeli custody with less than two years remaining in his 12-year sentence. The Palestinian Prisoners Club accused Israeli prison authorities of “deliberate procrastination” in providing Ahmad Abu Ali, 47, with necessary medical treatment.
More than 100 Palestinians were reported among the more than 50,000 people killed in catastrophic earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria on 6 February.