New year off to bloody start in West Bank

by Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, 6 January 2021. Palestinians protest against attacks by the Israeli military and settlers in the southern West Bank town of Yatta on 3 January.

The new year is off to a deadly start in the occupied West Bank where Israeli soldiers reflexively use lethal force against Palestinians.

A Palestinian man was shot dead by soldiers at a settlement road junction near the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday. The military claimed that the slain man, identified as Ahed Abdulrahman Qawqas, 25, had thrown a knife at soldiers.

No one besides Qawqas was injured during the incident, as in countless other alleged attacks on Israeli soldiers in which only the accused Palestinian assailant was injured, often fatally.

Israeli outlets published photos of a meat cleaver that was reportedly found at the scene where Qawqas was killed.

It is not clear whether Qawqas posed a life-threatening danger when he was shot dead.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found that Israel’s occupation forces had killed Palestinians without justification at least 11 times last year.

Human rights groups have long decried Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy that violates Palestinians’ right to life.

“Premeditated murder”

Meanwhile, Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, has demanded an investigation into the shooting of Harun Abu Aram, 24, in Khirbet al-Rakiz, a small community in the southern West Bank, on Friday.

The incident, the group stated, bears the hallmarks of being a premeditated attempted murder and thus “may amount to a war crime.”

Abu Aram is reportedly paralyzed from the neck down after being shot at close range by an Israeli soldier who was raiding a Palestinian residence in an attempt to seize property.

The young man was shot while trying to prevent Israeli soldiers from taking an electricity generator being used by a family living in a cave. The incident was recorded on video:

Occupation forces raided the cave with the aim of confiscating work tools and equipment on the pretext that the family was performing maintenance work on their residence.

More than half of the West Bank has been declared a closed military zone in which Palestinians are prevented by Israel from building homes without a permit, which are rarely granted.

“Palestinians are allowed to build in less than one percent” of the area declared a military zone, according to the UN monitoring group OCHA.

Abu Aram and others verbally confronted the soldiers, during which one of the latter struck Abu Aram on his arm and another soldier threw him to the ground as the other soldiers seized the generator.

Abu Aram and others were attempting to take back the generator when one of the soldiers fired at him from close distance, wounding him in the neck.

Soldiers fired at a vehicle driven by a neighbor attempting to transport Abu Aram to a medical clinic, disabling it.

After 10 minutes, the soldiers left and the neighbor was able to use another vehicle to evacuate Abu Aram. But on the road, the neighbor encountered two Israeli military vehicles, causing him to turn around and take Abu Aram to a nearby village where first aid was administered to the wounded man.

Abu Aram was eventually transferred to a hospital in Hebron where an initial medical report determined that the bullet fired by the soldier had crushed three vertebrae in his spine and had paralyzed the young man from the neck down.

Military training zone

Israel said that Palestinians had attacked soldiers who were evacuating an “illegal building.”

The area where Abu Aram was gravely injured is located in what Israel has classified as a military firing zone.

Israel designated some 7,500 acres in the surrounding Masafer Yatta region as a military firing zone in the 1980s, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Residents of the area have been subjected to forced transfer and home demolitions. All construction undertaken by Palestinians living in the area is considered illegal by Israel.

The Israeli military destroyed Abu Aram’s home in November 2020 using bulldozers and equipment manufactured by international giants Volvo and JCB.

Al-Haq said it “demands immediate accountability for the soldier who committed the crime and the officer responsible.”

The group added that the shooting of Abu Aram reaffirms the need for the International Criminal Court to open war crimes investigations in the West Bank and Gaza.