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Israel accused of killing civilians in West Bank strike.

by Reporter - Jan 18 161 Views 0 Comment
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Witnesses in the occupied West Bank say Israel targeted a group of Palestinian civilians without armed ties or threat to Israeli forces.

 

An Israeli air strike early on 7 January killed seven men, four of them brothers, sitting around a fire next to the road through al-Shuhada village, 10km (six miles) from Jenin. The BBC spoke to relatives of the men killed, witnesses, and a paramedic. All showed that the men were not armed militants and that Israeli forces were not clashing in the area. First-arriving paramedic Khalid al-Ahmad believes the men did nothing wrong. "One of them was wearing slippers and pyjamas," he told BBC. "Don't you think that someone who wants to resist [the Israeli occupation] would at least wear proper shoes?" A female soldier was killed in an IDF military operation in Jenin refugee camp hours before the strike. The IDF said "during the operation, an aircraft struck a terrorist squad that hurled explosives at the forces operating in the area" in a statement. IDF and CCTV footage from al-Shuhada does not show Palestinian confrontations during the strike. The brothers—Alaa, Hazza, Ahmad, and Rami Darweesh—were 22–29. They returned from Jordan a few years earlier with their mother and five siblings as Palestinian emigrants. Their Israeli permits allowed them to enter Israel daily for agricultural work. These permits are difficult to obtain and quickly revoked from anyone Israel considers a security threat or affiliate. Three men from their extended family died with them. Two brothers received permits in September 2023 for several months, according to the BBC. Since October's Hamas attacks, Palestinian workers cannot cross into Israel. After 20 years in Jenin, paramedic Khalid al-Ahmad was used to scanning trauma sites for weapons and explosives as a safety precaution. "I would tell you if there were weapons there," said he. I swear they were civilians. There were no resistance bullets or weapons. No Israelis were present." Armed Palestinian groups, which usually claim Israeli deaths, have not called these seven men "martyrs" for their cause. Their funerals were draped in Palestinian flags, including Hamas. Even if they are not supporters, Israel-killed people are often wrapped in their friends' or family's flags. The head of Jenin's main hospital, Wissam Bakr, where the bodies were brought that morning, and relatives and neighbors all denied the men's ties to militant groups. "They are not armed, they are not fighters," said he. "People usually know if he's a militant. These seven? All are civilians, no doubt." Mrs. Ibtesam Asous saw her sons' bodies at the hospital. “They were all gone,” she said. "I thought one would be martyred, not all four. I was shocked to learn they were all dead." Why was this group of men targeted? We asked the Israeli army. A spokesperson said soldiers were pursuing "terrorists who murdered an Israeli citizen" and that the air strike targeted "a terrorist squad that hurled explosives at the forces operating in the area, putting them in danger". During clashes with Palestinian fighters in Jenin Camp, 19-year-old border policewoman Shai Germai was killed when her vehicle hit an explosive device hours before the air strike in al-Shuhada. After that, the army convoy left Jenin via al-Shuhada, where the Darweesh brothers and their three distant relatives had gathered near an all-night coffee shop popular with agricultural workers and dawn vegetable market customers. IDF night-vision drone footage shows small flashes followed by an explosion as vehicles pass along the road, resembling a petrol bomb heat pattern. The video has no time or date stamp. The army provided similar footage of its air strike on the location, but the two are cut and edited together, making it impossible to tell how much time passed. The IDF was asked to clarify both events' timings. It said it would not comment or provide more information. The timing is crucial because international law requires lethal force under certain conditions. Late last year, the UN's human rights body called the West Bank situation "alarming and urgent". "Israeli forces have increasingly used military tactics and weapons in law enforcement operations," its spokesperson said in November. "Law enforcement is governed by international human rights law, which prohibits the intentional use of lethal force except when strictly necessary to protect life." Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, the men's mother, Ibtesam Asous, said Israeli forces in the West Bank had changed their tactics. "They are acting just as they used to," said. The only change is that the army no longer shoots people in the legs. As it grows, they're bombing with rockets and killing as many as possible." UN figures show that last year was the bloodiest in the West Bank, with Israeli forces killing 492 Palestinians, 300 of them since the Hamas attacks in October, including 80 children. Almost all died from live ammunition. Last year, Palestinians killed 28 Israelis, mostly civilians, in the West Bank, including three since October, two of whom were soldiers. Palestinian attacks in Israel this week killed one woman and injured 17. Two witnesses in the coffee shop that morning said the army convoy left al-Shuhada between 04:00 and 04:45 local time (02:00-02:45 GMT) before the air strike and there were no local clashes. "The soldiers passed four times and nobody approached them," he said. When the vehicles left the village, they bombed. A rocket hit young men sitting by a fire to stay warm." Another man told the BBC that the army leaving the village and the air strike around 05:00 took about an hour, and many people in the coffee shop, including him, left. Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic Khalid al-Ahmad recalls being called to Jenin Camp "almost 5am" after the Israeli army withdrew. The Jenin Hospital director said the bodies arrived at 05:15. CCTV footage from a nearby camera, part of which was filmed on a mobile phone by an unknown source, shows a car driving down the same empty road 30 seconds before the air strike. No time stamp is visible in the recording. The Darweesh brothers and relatives stand and sit around a fire. Then the air strike. Hazza had an early morning dialysis appointment at Jenin Hospital, while the other brothers went to work, their mother said. He wanted to leave early because he feared the military operation would block the road, she said. We saw Hazza Darweesh's name on the hospital kidney unit's schedule for 7am dialysis. After the air strike, the brothers' uncle, Youssef Asous, filmed bodies on the ground. The experienced Jenin paramedic Khalid al-Ahmad said he would never forget the scene. “They were kids without weapons,” Youssef said. Would have seen weapons if they had them. Only their chairs remained." "At the end of the day, anyone Palestinian is a target - if you are an armed person, then you are targeted; and if you are a civilian, then you are also a target." We presented this report's allegations to the IDF spokesperson, who repeated that the army had nothing more to say. This week, Ibtesam Asous visited the attack site for the first time. Her other children tried to stop her, but she had to see it. "I wanted to come and imagine where each of them was sitting," she said, pointing to various spots on the ground as traffic roared. Alaa, Ahmad, Rami, and Hazza were there. I wanted to locate my sons. It helps."

 

 


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