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Israel steps up its assassination policy in West Bank

January 24, 2014 at 2:53 am

Bashir Habanin’s house is full of the things he has made. As a professor of Décor at Khadoury Technical College in Tulkarem, West Bank, he was always making furniture to decorate the home he shared with his parents and siblings.

On 7 November, after leaving his job at the college, he was late coming home to the family house in Merka village, Jenin. His father, Sami Habanin, was not worried or even surprised, for his son had many friends in Ramallah and often came home late after visiting them.

However at around midnight, an Israeli military force appeared at the front door. For two hours they questioned the family and searched the home. The soldiers, according to Sami, also searched Bashir’s room, opened his closet and suitcase and read some of his Arabic books. They asked for Bashir’s whereabouts and what he had been wearing when he last left the house.

At around 2 am the soldiers left without an explanation.

An hour later, Sami’s brothers informed the family that at 7 pm the previous day, Bashir had been killed.

On the night of 7 November, Israeli soldiers shot him dead by the Za’tara checkpoint, south of Nablus city. Sami was told that Bashir was killed while he was crossing the checkpoint heading to Ramallah. He had reportedly been shot seven or eight times, two shots in the chest area and the rest in the lower parts of his body.

According to an IDF spokesperson: “On November 7 after nightfall, a Palestinian terrorist fired directly at civilians waiting at the Tapuach junction bus stop. The security personnel on the site responded to the shots, eliminating the threat. The flare gun the terrorist used was a lethal weapon used to attack civilians on the site.” The spokesperson did not respond to questions regarding the fate of the soldier responsible.

Bashir’s family strongly deny the IDF claims.

According to his father Sami: “Bashir was not the kind of man to do something like that; it was not in his nature. He was popular in his village. Sometimes I used to make fun of him, when he insisted after long hours at work to play sport. He was always playing football and seeing friends.”

He continued: “He loved education, and he loved his work. He was a religious man, always helping people and advising them to pray and fast. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral, everyone loved him.”

“We still have the furniture he used to make; he was very talented. His mother and sisters cannot believe he has gone,” he lamented.

Within the next 24 hours Anas Al-Atrash was also shot dead at a checkpoint.

Anas and his brother Ismail were driving home to Hebron from Jericho, where the family owned a shoe shop. At the container checkpoint, near Bethlehem, Anas got out of the car. Shortly afterwards, Ismail heard two shots.

The soldiers grabbed Ismail and tied his hands behind his back. From the ground, he could see his brother being taken away, but while Ismail was interrogated for approximately 40 minutes about his brother’s background, the soldiers did not respond to any of his questions on Anas’s condition. Later on, while still being interrogated, Ismail saw Israeli paramedics covering Anas’s body with tin foil.

It was then that he realised his brother had died.

Bashir and Anas’s deaths are to be added to the growing list of Palestinians who have been fatally shot by Israeli soldiers during the latest round of peace talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The talks resumed last summer, following a three-year hiatus.

In the same month that Bashir and Anas were killed, Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians who they claimed were militants. On 26 November, Mousa Mohammed Makhamra and Mohammed Fo’ad Nairoukh were killed whilst driving their car near Yatta, south of Hebron. A third victim was shot half an hour later.

The IDF have claimed the three were all members of a Salafist jihadi group planning attacks targeting both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, however, released a report calling the killings “extra-judicial executions” and “grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention”. According to the report, the Israeli soldiers fired at the car without warning.

Just two days later, an Israeli border police “volunteer” shot dead 24-year-old Antar Shalabi Mahmoud Al-Aqraa. Antar, who was from a village south of Nablus, was working illegally in Israel to save money for his wedding, only weeks away at the time. During a search for illegal workers, he was killed.

According to the Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, the Palestinian worker had “attempted to stab” an Israeli border police volunteer, who shot the worker in response.

“Antar has been working in Israel for several years, working day and night in order to save enough money for his wedding, which was scheduled for three weeks from now,” his uncle told Ma’an News, highlighting the unlikelihood that his nephew would attempt to stab the volunteer, particularly just before his wedding.

On 7 December, 14-year-old Wajih Wajdi al-Ramahi died after Israeli forces shot him in the back with live ammunition while he was standing outside a school in Al-Jalazoun refugee camp.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Wajih’s shooting. “This was a cold-blooded assassination perpetrated by the occupation regime,” he said in a statement. “The Government of Israel bears responsibility for this organised terror against innocent children … This policy is destructive for the peace process.”

Within the last 24 hours, two Palestinians were killed during separate arrest raids. Late Wednesday, Israeli forces shot dead 23-year-old Nafeh Al-Saadi in the Jenin refugee camp. Shortly before dawn, they shot and killed 27-year-old Saleh Yassin, who was a Palestinian intelligence officer, in the West Bank town of Qalqilya.

Around 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the resumption of the peace talks.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.