Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man early this morning ending a two-hour gun battle in the Ramallah area of the central occupied West Bank.
The raid sparked clashes, which left two Palestinians shot and injured by Israeli forces. No Israelis were injured in the incident.
Israeli police identified the slain man as Basel Al-Araj who was wanted for “planning terror attacks against Israelis”.
Al-Araj was detained without charges or explanation by Palestinian security forces in April last year along with Haitham Siyaj and Muhammad Harb. The controversial case made headlines when the three men joined three other detainees in a hunger strike in Palestinian prison, amid reports of torture and mistreatment.
After being released in September, Palestinian activists had feared that Israeli forces would immediately detain the six men.
Basel Al-Araj, 33
- Was from the village of Al-Walaja in the southern occupied district of Bethlehem. His home there has been raided “several times a week” by Israeli forces.
Muhammad Harb and Haitham Siyaj were eventually detained by Israeli forces, and in October, a video was released by Israeli media showing Israeli forces beating Siyaj in custody.
However, Israeli forces were unable to immediately apprehend Al-Araj, and the months-long manhunt continued until this morning’s raid when forces from the Israeli army, Israeli border police, Israeli intelligence and Israel’s counter-terrorism unit surrounded a house in the outskirts of the village of Qaddura where Al-Araj was allegedly staying.
Israeli police spokesperson Luba Al-Samri said: “Once Israeli forces arrived at the place, the Palestinian terrorist opened fire at Israeli forces, causing an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian terrorist, leading to his death.”
Al-Samri noted that no Israeli soldiers were injured in the shootout.
Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that gunfire was exchanged between Israeli forces and a Palestinian man for around two hours until he ran out of ammunition, after which Israeli forces raided the house and “executed” him by shooting him several times.
Israeli forces also fired an Energia rocket into the building, causing the destruction of parts of the house, witnesses said.
Witnesses said they saw Israeli forces dragging a man’s body by his feet outside of the house.
Meanwhile the Palestinian Ministry of Health has reportedly confirmed Al-Araj’s death, according to online media reports, while his body was taken by Israeli forces to an unknown destination.
Following the incident, clashes erupted between local Palestinians who started throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers who responded by opening fire, shooting and injuring two Palestinians, Al-Samri confirmed.
The two, who remained unidentified, suffered gunshot wounds in the lower part of their bodies and were evacuated by Palestinian Red Crescent crews for treatment, she said.
Al-Araj, 33, was from the village of Al-Walaja in the southern occupied district of Bethlehem. His home there has been raided “several times a week” by Israeli forces in recent months in their pursuit of him, according to locals.
According to Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, Al-Araj “was the head of a terrorist cell that planned attacks against Israelis and security forces.”
At the time of his detention along with Harb and Siyaj last year, initial reports said the three would simply be questioned by PA security before being returned to their families.
However, PA police later revealed they had been found with weapons, hand grenades, and camping equipment, allegedly to be used in a future attack on Israel.
Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun said at the time the men were all “well-known in their communities and families for their commitment to Palestinian freedom. Their arrest, torture and continued imprisonment clearly comes under the auspices of Palestinian Authority ‘security coordination’ with Israel.”