Fearing PA collapse, Israel steps up West Bank attacks

The body of 19-year-old Taher Zakarneh is carried by mourners during his funeral in Qabatiya village near Jenin (Ahmed Ibrahim - APA Images)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  September 8, 2022

Six Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of September, as Israeli occupation forces step up their attacks in the occupied West Bank.

The latest deaths come amid fears in Tel Aviv that the Palestinian Authority is failing in its task of protecting Israel and its settlers.

Israel is looking for ways to prop up the PA, which it views as a proxy force controlling Palestinians on its behalf.

In the early hours of Thursday, an Israeli soldier shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in Beitin village, near Ramallah.

The Israeli army accused Haitham Hani Mubarak of attacking a soldier with a hammer and injuring him in the face. Soldiers took Mubarak’s body after killing him.

Mubarak was a high school student, according to the head of the PA’s prisoner affairs commission Amin Shoman. Local media circulated his picture following his killing.

On Wednesday morning, Israeli forces fatally shot Younis Ghassan Tayeh with a bullet to the chest in the al-Faraa refugee camp near Tubas.

In graphic footage circulated by local media, Palestinians are seen carrying the 21-year-old on a stretcher as he bleeds.

The day before, Israeli occupation forces fatally shot another Palestinian man who was livestreaming video of their raid in the city of Jenin on the social media app TikTok.

Around 15,000 people were watching Muhammad Sabaaneh’s livestream during which Israeli forces shot him.

Sabaaneh was filming the revenge demolition of a house owned by the family of Raed Hazem, a Palestinian from Jenin refugee camp who shot and killed three Israelis last April.

Israeli forces had killed Hazem hours after the attack.

Such punitive home demolitions – which Israel carries out against the families of Palestinians it says carried out attacks on Israelis, but never against Jews who attack Palestinians – are a form of collective punishment forbidden under international law.

In a recording of the stream apparently after Sabaaneh was shot, the camera’s view is obscured but sounds can still be heard.

Sabaaneh’s picture was circulated by local media following his killing:

On 5 September, Israeli occupation forces killed 19-year-old Taher Zakarneh in Qabatiya village near Jenin.

Zakarneh’s father said soldiers opened fire on his son’s legs then at his head while he was sitting in a military jeep with the back door open.

According to his father, Zakarneh had been imprisoned for eight months by Israel and released a little over a year ago.

Meanwhile, Samer Mahmoud Khalid died after being shot in the neck during an Israeli raid in Balata refugee camp near Nablus on 1 September.

Israeli authorities claimed Khaled was killed by Palestinian gunfire and circulated a video of Palestinian militants firing their weapons into the air as supposed evidence.

This is almost identical to how Israel first initially tried to explain away the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh in May. Israel this week finally admitted that one of its soldiers most likely killed the Al-Jazeera journalist.

Given the Israeli army’s record of lying and shooting-to-kill Palestinians, its claims can never be taken at face value.

Palestinian Authority security forces reportedly fired stun grenades at Samer Khaled’s funeral procession. Palestinians protested the PA crackdown by setting tires ablaze at the Ein refugee camp in Nablus and blocked the entrance to the camp.

A 26-year-old Palestinian man, Yazan Afaneh, was also killed on the same day in Al-Bireh, a town near Ramallah, reportedly by Israeli fire.

Israel aims to prop up PA

Israeli occupation forces have intensified their lethal raids across the West Bank in recent months, particularly around Jenin and Nablus in the north, amid a resurgence of Palestinian armed resistance.

This comes as Israeli leaders are expressing alarm that the Palestinian Authority is losing control over the pockets of the West Bank where Israel allows it to operate.

Jenin remains a center for armed Palestinian resistance to Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, despite all efforts by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to suppress it.

On Thursday, the Jenin brigade of the Islamic Jihad resistance group released a video it said showed a resistance fighter blowing up an Israeli military vehicle with a remotely detonated bomb.

“The absence of control on the part of Palestinian security apparatus in certain parts of Judea and Samaria has created fertile ground for the growth of terrorism,” Israeli army chief of staff Aviv Kochavi said, using Israel’s pseudo-biblical name for the West Bank.

Israel uses the term “terrorist” to refer to almost any Palestinian armed or unarmed resistance.

“In places like Jenin and Nablus, they have little control on the ground,” Kochavi added.

“The situation on the ground is worse than it seems,” Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s domestic spying agency Shin Bet, reportedly told a visiting State Department official this week.

Biden administration officials are now reportedly pressuring Israel “to take urgent steps to stabilize the Palestinian Authority.”

“Israel is considering stepping up the economic assistance to the PA that the current government is already providing,” Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported.

The Palestinian Authority has since its creation in the mid-1990s maintained close cooperation with Israeli occupation forces under the banner of “security coordination.”

Israeli politicians love to attack and abuse the Palestinian Authority and accuse it of supporting “terrorism” – especially during election campaigns. But the reality is that Israel relies on the PA, and when it looks like it is teetering, Tel Aviv and Washington always rush to the rescue.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada