Middle East Eye / May 13, 2021
Amid heightened tensions in Jerusalem, Gaza and Israel, Palestinian families say Israeli soldiers have been ‘on edge’ trying to clamp down on West Bank protests.
Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday as tensions flared in the occupied Palestinian territory late into the night.
Palestinians took to the streets to protest against Israeli aggression on the besieged Gaza Strip and occupied East Jerusalem, and ongoing violence targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Israeli forces killed two Palestinians during early morning raids across the West Bank: 16-year-old Rashid Abu Arreh, from the northern West Bank city of Tubas, and 28-year-old Hussein al-Titi, from the Al-Khalil/Hebron-area Fawwar refugee camp. They also arrested 40 Palestinians.
Later on Wednesday, local media reported that Israeli forces had shot and killed another Palestinian man allegedly involved in a shooting attack south of Nablus that reportedly left two Israeli soldiers injured.
Palestinian media identified the man as 36-year-old Mohammed Omar Saeed, a former prisoner from the Ras al-Ain area of Nablus.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Health confirmed all three deaths, adding that at least 27 Palestinians were injured across the West Bank during confrontations with Israeli forces that lasted into the late hours of Wednesday night.
‘They came to kill’
The circumstances surrounding the killing of both Abu Arreh and Titi, as recounted by both of the families to Middle East Eye, eerily echoed one another.
Both were killed in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday: Abu Arreh at the entrance of his home and Titi on the roof of his. Their families both described Israeli soldiers in each situation as “extremely aggressive” and “on edge.”
“They came in guns blazing,” Ahmed al-Titi, Hussein al-Titi’s older brother, told MEE. “Hundreds of soldiers raided the camp, completely closing off all the entrances and exits.
“They almost immediately started using live fire,” he added. “No rubber bullets or anything, just tear gas and live ammunition.”
“Hussein was sleeping and suddenly we heard shooting like crazy, so he got up and went to the roof to see what was going on,” Ahmed said. “He was barely up there for a few minutes when he was shot by a sniper.”
According to Ahmed, Titi was shot twice in the chest with “dum dum” expanding bullets. He added that at least four other Palestinians in the camp were shot in the legs with live ammunition during the raid, during which three of the camp’s residents were arrested.
The Israeli army said in a statement that Titi was killed during a “violent riot”, and that soldiers “spotted one of the rioters standing on a rooftop with the intention of hurling a block towards the troops”.
Titi’s family has denied the claim.
“They killed him in cold blood,” Ahmed said.
In Tubas, Jamal Abu Arreh, a relative of Rashid, said he felt that the dozens of Israeli soldiers who raided the area “came ready to kill”.
“There were soldiers everywhere, and they were extremely aggressive, even in their arrest of Rashid’s neighbour,” he said. According to Jamal, 16-year-old Rashid heard the commotion next door and opened his front door to see what was going on.
“He opened the door to find Israeli soldiers arresting his neighbour. He barely had time to scream ‘soldiers!’ and they shot him,” Jamal said.
Abu Arreh was shot twice: once in the neck and once in the shoulder. His family says he was killed instantly. “He didn’t even have time to finish his sentence. They shot him just like that,” Jamal said.
In both cases, by the time Abu Arreh and Titi were evacuated to nearby hospitals and health centres they were already dead.
According to Titi’s family, Israeli forces prevented them from evacuating him out of the camp after he was shot.
“They completely besieged the camp and wouldn’t let us leave,” Ahmed said, adding that soldiers also prevented an ambulance from entering Al-Fawwar.
“We had to drive around and meet the ambulance on the outskirts of the camp, and transfer Hussein from our car to the ambulance,” he said.
“But by the time they reached the health center in Dura, it was too late.”
Dozens injured across West Bank
The killing of Abu Arreh, Titi, and Saeed comes amidst rising tensions in the West Bank over Israeli armed repression of worshippers in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, and airstrikes in Gaza that have left at least 83 Palestinians dead.
Israeli forces have stepped up search and arrest raids in the West Bank in recent days, with 46 more Palestinians arrested overnight on Thursday.
According to the PA health ministry, the vast majority of injuries on Wednesday were sustained in the Al-Khalil/Hebron district, with 20 live bullet injuries, including a critical injury to the eye and two serious injuries to the chest. Several people were also shot in the legs.
The ministry also documented several injuries caused by rubber-coated steel bullets, including at least one that caused serious damage to someone’s eye. Several others were treated for tear gas inhalation.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported 980 injuries in the five-day period between 8 and 12 May, including 77 live bullet injuries, 197 rubber-coated steel bullet injuries, 637 tear gas-related injuries, and 68 injuries as the result of “assault, beating, falling, and burns”.
“You can see in Jerusalem, Tubas, Nablus, and all over, the Israelis are using live bullets so quickly these days,” Ahmed al-Titi told MEE. “Israelis are on edge because they have lost control over what’s happening in Jerusalem, [within the Green Line] and in Gaza – and our young people are paying the price.”
The killings of Abu Arreh, Titi, and Saeed bring the number of Palestinians who were killed by Israelis in the West Bank since the beginning of the month to seven.
On Tuesday, Israeli forces shot and killed 28-year-old Ahmed Daraghmeh, an officer with the PA’s general intelligence service.
The Israeli army claimed that Daraghmeh was attempting to commit a shooting attack at a checkpoint. No Israelis were reported to be injured in the case.
Daraghmeh’s family has denied the claims, saying that he was on his way to the town of Huwwara in order to pick up a money transfer sent by his brother in the US as Eid al-Fitr expenses for his family, Roya news reported.
Abu Arreh was the second Palestinian teenager to be killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank this month, after 16-year-old Saeed Odeh in Nablus last week.
As Israeli airstrikes continue on Gaza and ultra-nationalist Israelis and police officers have confronted Palestinians inside Israel, the West Bank is also bracing for more violence in the coming days.
Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy
Echoing the sentiments of other Palestinian families whose loved ones were killed by Israeli forces earlier this month, both the Titi and Abu Arreh families criticised Israel for its excessive use of force against their family members.
“There was no reason to shoot Rashid. He posed no threat to them,” Jamal Abu Arreh told MEE. “It’s so easy for Israeli soldiers to kill a 16-year-old boy who has no effect on them, because they’ve been given the green light to shoot to kill any Palestinian in the West Bank.”
Israeli forces have long been criticised for their “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinians in cases where they did not pose an imminent threat to the lives of the Israeli soldiers, or when the situation could have been dealt with in non-lethal ways.
Rights groups like B’Tselem have condemned the policy as amounting to “state-sanctioned executions”.
“The world needs to stop being silent while they watch what Israel is doing to us,” Ahmed al-Titi told MEE, pointing to the ongoing violence being faced by Palestinians in the past week.
“They are committing crimes on a daily basis and violating international law. Israel needs to be held accountable for its crimes on the Palestinian people.”
Jamal Abu Arreh concurred, saying “the world needs to open their eyes, and make the Israelis stop their crimes against Palestinian civilians”.
“The world always talks about Hamas being terrorists, but what about the innocent children Israel is killing? Children like Rashid?” he asked.
“It’s not about Hamas, it’s not about terrorism, it’s about Israel’s efforts to expel Palestinians from this land at any cost.”
Akram al-Waara is a Palestinian freelance video journalist based out of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank