Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada / March 9, 2023
Three people were wounded, one critically, in Tel Aviv late Thursday by a gunman who was shot and killed at the scene.
The Tel Aviv attack followed an Israeli raid in the Jenin area that left three Palestinians dead earlier in the day. Meanwhile, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy died from his injuries after he was shot in the stomach with an expanding bullet during an Israeli raid on Tuesday.
Media outlets named the slain Tel Aviv shooter as 23-year-old Mutaz Salah al-Khawaja, from Nilin near the West Bank city of Ramallah:
Mutaz’s father, Salah al-Khawaja, told media that his son had previously been imprisoned by Israel for four years and was working at a store that sells household goods.
The Palestinian resistance group Hamas identified Mutaz al-Khawaja as a member of its armed wing.
Multiple videos have emerged from the scene of the attack in Tel Aviv. One appears to show the gunman shooting someone at point blank range before running away:
Another appears to show the moment that al-Khawaja is shot and killed and the aftermath.
The armed operation appears to represent a spillover into Israel of the escalating violence in the West Bank, where Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in a raid early Thursday morning.
A fourth Palestinian, a child, died on Thursday from injuries sustained during an Israeli military raid two days earlier.
Thursday’s shooting comes almost a year after a similar attack in the same busy nightlife district of Tel Aviv left three dead.
The 7 April 2022 attack in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street was one of several in Israel during the course of a few weeks waged by Palestinians, including a few from the northern West Bank.
The Israeli army escalated its repression and deployed thousands more soldiers to the West Bank in the wake of those attacks, code-naming its efforts Operation Break the Wave.
The result has been a sharp uptick in Palestinian fatalities, particularly during reprisal raids in major population centers, generating further rage and armed resistance against the occupation, with the northern West Bank bearing the brunt of the violence.
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said that Thursday’s shooting in Tel Aviv was a “natural response” to Israel’s killing of three Palestinians in Jaba village, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, earlier in the day.
Thursday’s fatalities bring to nearly 80 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers, police and Jewish settlers so far this year, or who died as a result of injuries sustained in previous years.
The fatality total is a four-fold increase over the 18 Palestinians killed during the same period in 2022 and a testimony to how Israel’s efforts to break Palestinian resistance against its repressive rule only guarantees more bloodshed.
Fourteen Israelis and foreign nationals have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the year.
‘Extrajudicial executions’ in Jaba
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights called the shooting deaths of three Palestinians by Israeli forces on Thursday “a new crime of extrajudicial execution.”
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, undercover Israeli forces infiltrated Jaba in a white vehicle with Palestinian license plates and stopped in front of a building under construction on the main road in the village.
After stopping, the undercover forces exited the vehicle “and directly opened fire at three persons in a Hyundai vehicle parked in front of the building.”
Backup forces soon arrived, with snipers occupying rooftops, and “Israeli soldiers surrounded the vehicle while gunshots were heard in the area.” The Israeli military withdrew around 20 minutes later “after partially blowing up the vehicle,” according to the rights group.
“Villagers found three dead bodies covered in blood on the right side of the vehicle,” PCHR added.
“Viral photos and inspection of the crime scene clearly showed that the three persons were directly assassinated and then shot several times outside the vehicle by the special force to make sure that all of them were dead.”
The three slain men, all Islamic Jihad fighters from Jaba, were identified as Sufiyan Fakhouri, 26, Nayif Malayisha, 25 and Ahmad Fashafsha, 22.
An Israeli Border Police spokesperson said that undercover officers entered Jenin “to arrest two men wanted for a series of shooting attacks against Israeli forces in the area.”
The spokesperson claimed that “the wanted Palestinians and another gunman opened fire from a passing vehicle at the troops, who returned fire, killing them,” The Times of Israel reported.
Islamic Jihad said that its fighters downed an Israeli surveillance drone during the raid. The Israeli military confirmed that one of its drones crashed but did not say whether it was shot down.
A photo apparently showing the downed drone circulated on social media:
Teen dies after raid
Also on Thursday, Walid Saad Daoud Nassar, 15, died after he was shot in the stomach during an Israeli raid in Jenin on Tuesday that left six others dead. He is the 14th Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank so far this year.
The teen was hit when troops fired at youth throwing stones at the withdrawing forces, according to Defense for Children International-Palestine.
“An Israeli soldier fired at least seven consecutive bullets at the group of Palestinian youth through a small window in one of the passing armored Israeli military vehicles, striking Walid,” the rights group said.
“The bullet that struck Walid was likely an expanding bullet,” DCIP added. “These bullets used by Israeli forces are designed to expand inside the body upon impact, causing massive internal injuries.”
Israeli soldiers killed six Palestinians in the course of the two-hour raid, during which firefights ensued.
A total of 10 Palestinians were killed in the Jenin area over a 48-hour period beginning on Tuesday.
Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada