Sixth Palestinian killed in Aqbat Jabr refugee camp by Israeli army

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  March 2, 2023

The Israeli army besieged Aqbat Jabr refugee camp for the second time this year, after a drive-by shooting allegedly carried out by a resistance cell in the camp left an Israeli-American man dead.

On Wednesday, March 1, Mahmoud Jamal Hasan Hamdan, 22, was killed by Israeli forces during an invasion on the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp in Jericho. 

Hamdan was first injured by Israeli bullets and arrested following his injury, succumbing to his wounds while in Israeli custody, according to reports received by the Palestinian Coordination Office from Israel. 

The army invasion was reportedly in response to a shooting attack that took place several few days earlier, allegedly conducted by a group of Palestinians from the camp. A number of Palestinians were also arrested during the invasion, whom the Israeli army claimed were part of a cell that was responsible for the attack.

Second siege of Jericho this year

The invasion started when an undercover white van carrying Israeli special forces entered the camp, which was shortly followed by a massive military assault launched by the Israeli army. 

At approximately 1:00 p.m., the Aqbat Jabr Brigade (AJB) — a Palestinian resistance group that emerged last February as part of the further spread of armed resistance groups throughout the West Bank in 2023 — reported on its Telegram channel that it was facing a military assault that it continued to repel in armed confrontations with Israeli soldiers. 

According to Israeli media, the purpose of the military invasion was to arrest a Hamas-affiliated cell that had conducted an armed attack on Arba street earlier that week. In that attack, on February 27, an American-Israeli man was shot by two Palestinians in a drive-by shooting. He later died of his wounds in Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem.

According to local journalists, Israeli forces had invaded Jericho at around 12:50 p.m. and made their way towards Aqbat Jabr refugee camp. Within a matter of 15 minutes, Israeli forces surrounded and besieged a Palestinian residing in the camp, Maher Shlon, demanding that he turn himself in.

By 2:00 p.m, four Palestinians from the same family were arrested — brothers Maher, Amer, Abdelnasser and Mohammad Shlon, and Mohammad’s 24-year-old son, Saleh. All of the arrested men are former political detainees. A fifth Palestinian, Abdelnasser Shlon, 47, was also punitively arrested, with no apparent justification given by the army. He is a board member of the Palestinian Prisoners Club council.

They were all in the same house at the time of the invasion. According to Israeli media, the men were part of a cell responsible for carrying out the armed operation. The Shlon detainees were transferred to Ofer military detention center and are scheduled to have a military court hearing on Sunday, March 5.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Hamdan, alleged to be part of the same cell, was in the same building that housed the Shlon family members. He was first injured during the first hour of the invasion. According to a joint statement by the Israeli army and intelligence, Hamdan was injured as he was exiting the home surrounded by the army.

According to WAFA News Agency, Hamdan’s injury was the result of a shot to the abdomen, and he was being resuscitated and treated for his wounds by Palestinian medics when Israeli forces intervened and prevented them from treating him, detaining Hamdan despite his injury. He later succumbed to his wounds in Israeli custody. 

An hour into the invasion, the governor of Jericho, Jihad Yousef Abu al-Asal, said in a statement to the press that “the Palestinian population only have God.” Abu al-Asal is also from the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp.

One woman was injured with a rubber bullet to the head during the invasion, although her condition remains stable, according to Nasser Anani, the director of Jericho Hospital, when speaking to Mondoweiss.

One soldier was reportedly injured in the invasion.

Within two hours from the start of the operation, the Israeli military had retreated from the camp. 

In videos shot by camp residents and journalists on the scene that circulated on social media, Israeli soldiers are seen holding a man and a young child captive as they fire in the camp, a clear case of using Palestinians as human shields. This is a historically common practice for the Israeli army, and has been condemned by human rights organizations and official UN bodies as a violation of international law. 

Continued killing spree

On Thursday morning, the city of Jericho closed down in a general strike, in mourning over the killing of Hamdan the day before. 

For days, entry and exit points to Jericho have been closed off by the Israeli military, which persisted from the time of the initial attack on February 27 until Wednesday evening, March 1.

A day before the assault on Aqbat Jabr, on Sunday February 26, a Palestinian gunman shot and killed two Jewish settlers from the illegal Jewish settlement of Har Bracha in Huwwara, which was followed by a settler rampage in the Palestinian town in what has been described as a pogrom. According to the head of the town council, Muin Dumeidi, the attack cost more than 18 million NIS in damages (approximately 4,944,533 USD).

The two resistance shootings in Huwwara and Jericho came as a response to a massive Israeli military raid on Nablus on February 23, which resulted in the killing of 11 Palestinians, and the injuring of more than 102

Since the beginning of the year, and in the span of 62 days, the Israeli military and armed settlers have killed 66 Palestinians, 12 of them children.

Last year was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the UN began documenting killings in 2005.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss