The Electronic Intifada / May 22, 2023
Israeli occupation forces attacked Balata refugee camp on Monday morning, killing three Palestinians and injuring others.
Muhammad Bilal Zaytoun, 31, a cleaner with the Nablus municipality, was returning home from work when Israeli soldiers raided the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, an occupied West Bank city.
As Zaytoun stepped out of a municipal vehicle, Israeli soldiers fired at him without warning even though he posed no danger, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).
The Israeli invaders shot him in the chest, hand and leg, and left him “to bleed for 20 minutes without providing him [with] first aid.”
He was killed in “cold blood,” the human rights group said.
The occupation forces also cordoned off the camp.
The shooting of Zaytoun revealed the presence of the Israeli invaders to resistance fighters in the camp, according to PCHR. Fighters engaged the Israelis in defense of the camp.
Two resistance fighters, Fathi Jihad Rizq, 30, and Abdullah Yousef Abu Hamdan, 24, were killed in the exchange of fire and three others were injured.
Israeli forces then raided a building where seven families lived – more than 40 people – and planted bombs in an uninhabited first floor apartment.
They then set off the explosives without evacuating the residents on the other floors, according to PCHR. The three-story building belonged to the Abu Shallal family.
“As a result, the second and third floors sustained severe damage in addition to a nearby two-storey house belonging to [the] Abu Dira family, sheltering two families of 13, including three children and five women,” PCHR said.
Sarah Abu Dira, 24, was injured inside her family’s home with shrapnel to her head.
Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral procession for the men killed in the Israeli attack.
Justifying its attack on Balata and the death, injury and terror it inflicted on the camp’s residents, the Israeli army claimed it had found an “explosives laboratory” in an apartment and destroyed it.
It is unclear if that is the same apartment it blew up in the Abu Shallal residence. Occupation forces also said they detained three wanted persons.
PCHR noted an increase in Israeli raids on areas in the occupied West Bank nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli forces also stormed Jenin in the early hours of Monday.
‘We’re in charge here’
Meanwhile, ultra-far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made an incursion into the al-Aqsa mosque compound on Monday.
Ben-Gvir stated his purpose was to demonstrate to Palestinians “who owns the house.”
“We’re in charge of Jerusalem and all of the land of Israel,” he said.
This comes just days after hordes of Israeli Jews, backed by the government, rampaged through occupied East Jerusalem on their annual “flag march” chanting genocidal slogans, including “death to the Arabs.”
Such provocations – against a background of constant attacks on Muslim worshippers by Israeli occupation forces – only fuel Palestinian fears about Israeli plans to take over or partition the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Once on the fringes of Israeli society, the fanatical Jewish movement that calls for the destruction of the al-Aqsa mosque and its replacement with a Jewish temple has in recent years moved into the mainstream.
In May 2021, Israel’s attacks on worshippers at al-Aqsa spiraled into an all-out war.
Ben-Gvir’s actions on Monday drew condemnation from Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and even the United States, all of whose rulers are staunch allies of Israel.
In Washington, a spokesperson for the State Department, called Ben-Gvir’s visit “provocative” and described his statements at the site as “inflammatory.”
Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting