A 66-year old man has been shot and killed in his bed by Israeli forces in Hebron. The murder took place during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank city which appeared to be targeting six Hamas men released from Palestinian Authority custody a day earlier. The killing appears to have been a case of mistaken identity, although it bore the hallmarks of a deliberate execution.
The Hamas men who were arrested overnight have been named as Wael Al-Bitar, Majdi E’beid, Ahmad E’wewy, Muhand Neirukh, Wisam Al-Qawasmi and Mohammad Suqieyah. All were released from PA custody following intense lobbying by the detainees, who had been on hunger strike for weeks.
The murder victim has been named as Omer Salim Al-Qawasmi, who lived in the same building as Wael Al-Bitar in the Ash-Sheikh area of Hebron. The victim’s son, Raja’e, was at home when Israeli soldiers broke into the building and came up the stairs. It was during the time of the dawn prayer and Raja’e said his mother was in the living room praying. “The soldiers forced her into my disabled brother’s room, and then went into my father’s bedroom,” he said. No shots were heard, according to Raja’e, who saw the troops leaving before arresting Al-Bitar. After the soldiers had left the building, the family went to check on Mr. Al-Qawasmi. “We were shocked to see his body drenched in blood, and can only assume that the soldiers used silencers on their guns when they killed my father.”
Raja’e could think of no reason why his father was killed by the soldiers unless they had the floors mixed up and thought he was Wael Al-Bitar. Clearly, he added, they did not bother to check the victim’s identity before opening fire.
Medical sources at Hebron’s Governmental Hospital said Omer Al-Qawasmi’s body had several gunshot wounds to his upper body and face. An Israeli military spokesman said he was looking into the incident.
The six men detained during the raid had been released the day before by order of President Mahmoud Abbas, following negotiations with the prisoners and their political party. Most of the men were being detained by the PA without charge due to their connection with the resistance movement and their affiliation with Hamas. Police had said that they could not guarantee the safety of the men once released as they were reported to be wanted by Israel. When the prisoners were moved closer to their families from a detention centre in Bethlehem, it was hailed by Hebron Governor Kamel Ihmeid as a step towards Palestinian unity.