Palestinians enraged after Israeli forces shoot prone militant in head in Jenin

Ben Lynfield

The Guardian  /  March 17, 2023

Nidal Hazem among three men and a boy killed in ‘intelligence-based counter-terrorism activity’.

The shooting in the head of a motionless Palestinian militant during an Israeli raid on Jenin in which three other people were killed has enraged Palestinians as images of the incident spread across social media.

Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the PLO executive committee, condemned the shooting on Thursday of Nidal Hazem, who was face down at the time. “This is a crime in the full sense of the word,” he said.

The Israeli army said its raid, the latest on Jenin and its refugee camp in recent months, was “an intelligence-based counter-terrorism activity” and had “neutralised” two suspected militants.

The Palestinian health ministry identified those killed as a teenage boy Omar Awadin, 16, Luay al-Zughair, 37, Nidal Hazem, 28 and Youssef Shreem, 29. Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said Shreem belonged to its group and Islamic Jihad claimed Hazem as one of its members.

The Israeli army statement did not offer any immediate explanation for why Hazem was shot in the head in what the Israeli group of military veterans against the occupation, Breaking the Silence, called an “extrajudicial execution”.

Avner Gvaryahu, the head of the group, claimed the shooting was an example of a practice known as “verification of killing” that is part of Israeli defence force training for special operations units. “What we saw is very telling in terms of an unspoken practice in the army,” he said. The IDF denies any such practice exists.

The raid, which witnesses described as an undercover operation into a crowded market area, came days before a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli officials on Sunday in the Egyptian city Sharm el-Sheikh aimed at reducing tensions before Ramadan.

“The international community must abandon its silence and hold Israel responsible for its organised state terrorism,” said Majdalani, an ally of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. He said that not only must the security force member who pulled the trigger on Hazem be held to account, but also his commanders.

Ghassan Khatib, a former minister of Labour in the Palestinian Authority who teaches at Birzeit University, added that the “inhuman” shooting “only incites Palestinian youth for revenge”.

An Israeli army spokesperson, Richard Hecht, did not give a clear answer when asked if an investigation would be opened. “I know the visual is problematic. I’ll know more next week. It’s a special police force officer,” he said.

The raid was the latest instalment of Operation Break the Wave, which consists of repeated incursions into West Bank towns and refugee camps with the stated goal of thwarting Palestinian attacks.

It was launched a year ago after a string of Palestinian attacks, including one that killed three Israelis in a Tel Aviv pub. The army said one of Hazem’s relatives was the perpetrator.

Twenty other Palestinians were wounded in Thursday’s raid, four critically, according to the Palestinian ministry of health.

Gvaryahu said that only a few of the cases of “verification of killing” are captured on video. “Even though this is illegal under Israeli law, there is no pushback, no accountability, no teeth in military courts and the supreme court sides with the security establishment.”

Ben Lynfield is a journalist based in Jerusalem