Palestinian killed in crossfire after Israeli raid on West Bank town

AJ Staff

Al-Jazeera  /  September 1, 2023

Israeli forces stormed Aqaba and destroyed a building after besieging it but failed to arrest a wanted Palestinian.

A Palestinian man has been shot and killed by Israeli forces during a raid in an occupied West Bank town following a confrontation that resulted in a building being destroyed.

Abdul Rahim Fayez Ghannam, 36, was shot in the head in Aqaba, north of Tubas, and pronounced dead at the local hospital on Friday.

Nidal Odeh, director of emergency services in Aqaba, told local media that Israeli forces prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded, and one ambulance was directly targeted by live ammunition.

Israeli forces raided the town looking for Ahmad Walid, who they accused of carrying out a shooting attack near a checkpoint in the Jordan Valley last month.

Witness Saleh Abu Arra told Al-Jazeera the Israeli soldiers thought Walid was hiding in one of the buildings but he was not there.

“The raid started at about 5am. My two brothers live with their families in the building that was surrounded by Israeli forces,” the 39-year old said.

One of his brothers, Bakr Abu Arra, was apprehended by the Israelis.

“They yelled at him on loudspeakers to come out with his family, and proceeded to beat him with their guns and curse at him, terrifying his wife and children,” Saleh Abu Arra said.

After half an hour, Israeli forces started firing sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the building, then  targeted the second and third floors with antitank grenades, which also destroyed an adjacent wedding hall.

Violent confrontations ensued for the next five hours, another witness Amir al-Qasem said, with Israeli soldiers firing at the ruined building with live ammunition, and Palestinian residents throwing objects at military vehicles.

Armed Palestinian men also targeted the Israeli convoy with live fire.

“The martyr Fayez was caught in the crossfire,” Al-Qasem said. “He is a farmer and was on his way to his fields.”

Al-Qasem said the Israelis failed in their mission to arrest Walid, and then began firing randomly at the destroyed house and surrounding areas.

“I’ve never seen such a huge amount of bullet casings inside the building,” he said.

Israeli forces arrested the two brothers Bakr and Mohammed Abu Arra and their father Abdelrazeq.

Ahmad Walid’s brother Mushrif told Al-Jazeera he were surprised when Israeli intelligence called him on the phone.

“My brother is a labour worker inside Israel, and he goes away for two weeks to a month at a time,” Mushrif said.

“We told the Israelis that he isn’t here, but they forced my elderly parents outside and took them to the Abu Arra building and made them call for Ahmad to surrender himself on the loudspeakers.”

In a statement, the Israeli army said a firefight broke out between armed fighters and soldiers and “a hit was identified on one of the gunmen”.

Troops also “used shoulder-fired missiles and grenades” and subsequently found improvised explosive devices and other weapons in the building, it said.

The near-daily Israeli military raids have resulted in some of the worst fighting in the occupied West Bank since the early 2000s.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the start of this year, with the United Nations saying 2023 is the deadliest year for Palestinians since the world body began recording Palestinian fatalities in 2006.

Additional reporting by Ayman Nobani in Aqaba, occupied West Bank