Palestinians killed in escalation of West Bank violence

Israeli soldiers stand guard as Jewish settlers attempt to storm Nablus near Huwara checkpoint (Nasser Ishayeh - SOPA Images)

Maureen Clare Murphy

The Electronic Intifada  /  October 5, 2022

A United Nations human rights expert said on Thursday that she was “extremely alarmed by the escalation of violence” in the West Bank, where Israeli forces have killed five Palestinians since the beginning of October.

Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur for the West Bank and Gaza, added that “settlers’ incursions and attacks, from Jerusalem to Hebron and Nablus, are heightening the tension at a sensitive moment.”

Settlers blocked roads and threw stones at Palestinian drivers attempting to drive in and out of Nablus and Ramallah, major West Bank cities under nominal Palestinian Authority control, in the lead-up to Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday.

And in Bat Yam, a city near Tel Aviv, a mob attacked and overturned a vehicle carrying five Palestinians on Wednesday. The attackers “claimed the men had arrived in the city with the deliberate aim of disturbing the peace during Yom Kippur,” The Times of Israel reported.

“It was unclear how the motivation of the men had been ascertained by the crowd,” the publication added.

The Times of Israel noted that the incident was reminiscent of an attack on a Palestinian motorist in the city during a “spasm of communal violence” coinciding with Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in May 2021.

At that time, Israeli Jewish mobs planned and coordinated widespread attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel using messaging apps.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian man was killed during an Israeli raid in the northern West Bank on Wednesday.

Alaa Zaghal, 21, died after he was shot in the head in Deir al-Hatab, a town near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Israeli occupation forces besieged a home in the village where they arrested Salman Omran after an hours-long standoff and firefight.

In an audio clip apparently recorded while he was under siege, Omran said that he was engaged with the Israeli army and appealed to young people in the area to join the battle before praying to God to accept him as a martyr:

Omran’s son told media that Israeli soldiers came to arrest his father after he had returned home from school.

The boy described Israeli soldiers shooting at his home, which was left badly damaged.

The Israeli military reportedly accused Omran of carrying out a shooting attack on Sunday.

An Israeli taxi driver was lightly wounded during that alleged shooting near Elon Moreh, a settlement in the Nablus area. The windshields of both the taxi and a bus were damaged in the shooting, an Israeli military spokesperson told media.

Also on Sunday, an Israeli soldier was reportedly lightly wounded in a shooting attack during a protest by Jewish settlers demanding a military crackdown on Palestinian armed resistance, according to the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

An alliance of Palestinian resistance fighters based in the Nablus area dubbed “the Lion’s Den” reportedly claimed responsibility for the shooting.

Both Nablus and Jenin, another city in the northern West Bank, have re-emerged as centers of armed resistance to the Israeli military occupation. In recent months, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have stepped up their attacks in these areas amid concerns among Israeli leaders that they are slipping out of the occupation’s control.

Journalists attacked

Two journalists from Palestine TV – Mahmoud Fawzi and Luai Samhan – were among the at least six others wounded by Israeli forces during the fatal military operation in Deir al-Hatab on Wednesday.

The journalists and their network accused Israel of deliberately targeting the reporters, who were wearing helmets and protective vests identifying them as press.

In a video recorded during the attack on the journalists, one of the reporters said that they were under direct fire and that his colleague was shot in the arm, which is apparent in the clip:

Israel has come under unprecedented scrutiny after one of its sharpshooters shot and killed Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering a military raid in Jenin during May.

No soldier has been held accountable over what an independent forensic investigation concluded was a deliberate killing. Israeli leaders have rebuffed US calls to examine the military’s open fire policy.

Some 100 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military and settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, so far this year amid “a massive increase in military raids,” as described by the BBC.

On Monday, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians in Jalazone refugee camp in the central West Bank in what the military claimed was a car ramming attack.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights refuted the Israeli account and said that Salameh Rafat Shariah, 19, and Khaled Fadi Anbar, 19, posed no imminent danger when they were fatally injured and another passenger, Basel Kathem Basbous, 18, was wounded.

The rights group said that Israeli soldiers ambushed the car carrying the three Palestinian men and that there were no confrontations taking place at the time.

Soldiers prevented Palestine Red Crescent Society medics from accessing the injured men, who were left to bleed inside the car for more than half an hour, the rights group said.

The slain Palestinians’ families told the rights group that the young men were on their way home after finishing work at a pizza restaurant.

Teenager killed

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights noted that the deadly ambush on Monday bore similarities to the killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon.

Fayez Khaled Mahmoud Damdan, 17, was shot in the back by an Israeli paramilitary Border Police officer while riding his motorcycle in the Jerusalem-area town of al-Eizariya.

According to Defense for Children International-Palestine, the teen, “who was driving the motorcycle with a friend, attempted to slow down as the Israeli military vehicles in front of him slowed down, but the motorcycle slipped.”

Fayez fell “and was dragged by the motorcycle” while his friend was able to jump off and run away, the rights group added.

After Fayez got up and ran for a distance of less than one meter, “Israeli forces shot and killed him from a distance of two to four meters.”

“The single bullet settled in Fayez’s brain,” Defense for Children International-Palestine said.

Israeli forces and settlers have killed 23 Palestinian children in the West Bank so far this year, according to the rights group. That is in addition to 17 children killed during Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip in August.

On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “deeply concerned by the intensification of armed violence in parts of the West Bank leading to numerous civilian casualties.”

‘’It is unacceptable that civilians are injured or killed in these episodes of violence. It is very worrying that children in schools nearby witness such levels of violence, and too often are victims of it,” said Arnaud Meffre, an ICRC official in the West Bank.

Meffre was likely referring to an Israeli raid in Nablus last week that left four Palestinian fighters dead and nearly 60 more people injured. Videos showed children crying in terror during the daytime invasion.

Adam Bouloukos, the West Bank director the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said that students at UNRWA girls’ elementary school in Jenin refugee camp sheltered at the back of their classroom during the incursion.

“They went to the back of the room, they huddled under their desks, they stayed in a closed area for nearly three hours with no water and no food,” he said.

Bouloukos said on Monday that “the level of violence in Jenin camp and across the West Bank is the highest we have seen in years.”

He called on Israeli forces “to limit the use of excessive force and spare [the] loss of civilian life in Jenin and across the West Bank.”

The ICRC’s Meffre called for ensuring the safety of Palestine Red Crescent Society paramedics who “have been at the forefront of responding to urgent humanitarian needs.”

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that Israeli forces attacked two of its medics in Beit Furik, a village south of Nablus, on Sunday.

“The two medics were threatened at gunpoint, kicked and beaten,” the organization said. “One of them was also hit on the head with a rifle, and both sustained injuries and were held by Israeli soldiers who also kicked the ambulance and struck it with their rifle butts.”

PRCS said that it has recorded nearly 400 violations against it so far this year, including more than a dozen attacks against staff and volunteers.

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada