Overview May 2020

Source: The Palestinian Poster Project. Artwork by Mohammed Hamza – 2012

In the month of May 2020 Staat van Beleg could list 608 human rights violations (and 133 reports/analyses). (see our archive and the monthly violations reports of the Negotiations Affairs Department). This month we write about the killing of an Israeli soldier. How the media failed to give more details of the circumstances and updates of Israeli violations, including the killing of three Palestinians, that took place in the aftermath of the incident. We will also shed light on Israeli apartheid policies within judicial processes.

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On 12 May during a pre-dawn invasion of Ya’bad, southwest of Jenin a 21-year old Israeli soldier, identified as Staff Sgt. Amit Ben Ygal, was being killed by Palestinians who dropped a large stone from a rooftop on his head while he was in the street. The incident has been largely covered by the mainstream media, almost instantly. However, most of the reports lacked background information of the occupied village Ya’bad that would rather place this killing under an act of resistance instead of a murder in cold blood. Therefore we would like to fill in some missing information.  

“[Israel] is a state of apartheid. It’s taken me less than a week to lose impartiality. In doing so, I may as well be throwing rocks at tanks.”

– Jewish actor Daniel Day-Lewis –

Situation Ya’bad

Ya’bad is a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank, 20 kilometers west of Jenin in the Jenin Governorate. It is a major agricultural town with most of its land covered with olive groves and grain fields. Since the 1967 Six-Day War Ya’bad has been under Israeli occupation

Situated less than 10 kilometres from the Separation Wall, Ya’bad has been in the crosshairs of every major event in the region’s history. In 1967 the town was the site of a famous battle, and lost seven of its residents when Israeli soldiers crossed into the West Bank for the first time. In 1988, during the First Intifada, six young men were killed in clashes with Israeli forces, the youngest of them 14 years old. Another, a 23-year-old, was run over by an IDF vehicle. At the height of the Second Intifada in 2000, two brothers, aged 18 and 22, were shot in the head with Israeli assault rifles.

On 1 June 2017 the 14-year-old Palestinian girl Nouf Aqab Infayat from Ya’bad was shot by Israeli forces. Nouf had left the house and headed to school to pick up an end-of-year certificate before the Ramadan break. She was gone for a few hours. Then her father received a call telling him that his daughter had been shot outside the gates of a nearby Israeli settlement, Mevo Dotan, and was in hospital fighting for her life. One day later, on 2 June she succumbed to her injuries. No one knows what happened to Nouf Aqab Infayat in the grey hours in between, or why she ended up at the gates of Mevo Dotan. Security footage shows Nouf getting off a bus metres from the checkpoint leading into the settlement, and briefly speaking with one of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers stationed there. She then begins to walk up to the gate and out of view of the camera. Settlers are then seen running in the opposite direction. The official statement by Israel’s military accused Nouf of carrying a knife, and of stabbing one of its soldiers, injuring him lightly. The other soldiers shot her in the stomach. Later that day another video surfaced, showing the girl lying on the road moaning in pain, while soldiers and an armed settler stand around her vocally taunting her to die. Defense for Children International-Palestine stated that Nouf  was shot six times in the neck, hand and thigh.

Ya’bad has repeatedly been the target of IDF military drills, settler attacks and state-sanctioned housing demolitions as its neighboring settlements continue to expand.

To get a good impression of what life looks like living in Ya’bad we did a search on the town at the website of the Negotations Affairs Department (NAD). It turned out that since the start of 2016 Yabad was mentioned about 330 times in the NAD reports and in most of these reports we found multiple Israeli violations.

Media coverage

We  just mentioned the killing of the Palestinian minor Nouf Aqab Infayat. It is worth mentioning that according to figures from “Defence for Children International – Palestine” since 2000 2,116 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers, an average of almost 9 Palestinian minors each month! This does not include children that were killed while involved in hostilities. Apparently these Palestinian minors being killed by an occupying power and settlers are of less importance for the media than an Israeli soldier being killed in a Palestinian resistance act during a raid. If you google on Amit Ben Ygal and then on Nouf Aqab Infayat you will get the picture.

In most of the media reports except from Haaretz and some Palestinian agencies it was not mentioned that during the killing of Sergeant Amit Ben Ygal Israeli forces were raiding the town to arrest some suspects. Most of the agencies that so eagerly reported about the killing of Ygal didn’t give updates about what happened in the aftermath of the incident either.

One day after Ygal was killed Israeli forces killed a Palestinian child during a raid on Fawwar refugee camp southwest of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Zaid Fadil Qaisiya, 17, was sitting on the roof of his family home when Israeli forces shot him in the head with live ammunition. He died from his wounds shortly after. Zaid’s younger brother said he was with him when he was shot. “We heard the sound of a stun grenade, so we went up to the roof to see what happened,” the brother said in a video circulated on Twitter.  

On the same day Security guards at a Tel Aviv hospital killed an epileptic Palestinian man, Mustafa Younis,  in front of his mother. He was killed at the entrance to the hospital where he frequently received treatment for his epilepsy. A video shows three security guards shooting Younis, who has his hands up and is standing near the driver’s side of his car.

Two days after Ygal was killed a Palestinian young man was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces outside the town of Beit Awwa, near the occupied West Bank town of Hebron (Al-Khalil). Israeli troops fired live bullets at the man, who was identified as Bahaeddin Mohammad Abdullah al-‘Awawda, 18.

Local news agencies reported about the tight Israeli siege in reprisal of the soldier’s death and about the raids that were carried out in Yabad following the incident.

On the evening of 13 May a Palestinian was shot and injured and dozens other suffocated from Israeli military gunfire  in a renewed raid in Ya’bad town.

18-year-old Mo’tasem Asfour, who was kidnapped by IOF in a raid campaign in Ya’bad camp predawn today, was found at the entrance of the town, beaten and unconscious. 14 May 2020. picture: Quds News Network

On 15 May local sources reported that the IOF tightened the siege imposed on Ya’bad town, stormed several Palestinian homes, wreaked havoc on them and assaulted their residents. The IOF blocked the main entrance to the town with cement blocks and warned Palestinian citizens against entering or leaving the area, according to the same sources. Palestinian journalist Laila Hamarsha said that the IOF violently broke into her family’s home in Ya’bad and assaulted her father, brothers, uncle, mother and grandmother who were all transferred to a hospital for treatment.

A Palestinian citizen from the Hamarshah family from Ya’bad severely beaten by Israeli occupation soldiers who stormed their home this morning, 15 May 2020. Source: Younes Arar, human rights defender and journalist

On 22 May the Palestinian information center reported that Ya’bad’s residents have been subjected to daily raids, assaults and arrests which are part of a collective punishment policy pursued against them by the Israeli army since 12 May. Overnight 15 Israeli military jeeps stormed the western neighborhood of Ya’bad, raided several Palestinian homes, wreaked havoc on them and assaulted their residents. A Palestinian mother Suhaila Abu Baker, 45, and her daughter Eman Abu Baker, 16 were arrested from their home. Local sources said that this is the fourth time the mother has been arrested by the IOF in recent weeks, noting that her husband Nazmi Abu Baker, 48, has been detained in Israeli jails since 12 May.

Palestinian stones versus Israeli stones

It is not the first time that an Israeli soldier was killed by a stone. In a similar incident in 2018, Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky was fatally injured when a heavy stone slab was thrown from the third floor of a building during arrests at the al-Am’ari refugee camp, near Ramallah. A Palestinian, Islam Mohammed Yousef Naji, was sentenced to life in prison after confessing.

When we take a look at a case where a Palestinian woman was killed in a stone attack by Israeli settlers we see an entirely different scenario. On 12 October 2018 the 47-year-old Palestinian woman Aisha Mohammed Talal al-Rabi was stoned to death by Israeli settlers while she was driving in a car with her husband. On 24 January 2019 a 16-year-old suspect was charged with manslaughter, and was placed under house arrest with his grandparents but could return to his hometown recently.

Another good example of Israeli apartheid within judicial processes is the case of the arson attack on the Palestinian Dawabshe family home that killed 18-month-old Ali and his parents, Sa’ad and Riham in July 2015. Only now, after 5 years! suspect Amiram Ben-Uliel was convicted. A report from December 2019 of the Israeli Human Rights organization Yesh Din on law enforcement on Israeli citizens in the West Bank doesn’t give much hope on a just outcome either. We will wait and see if Ben-Uliel will be sentenced to life in prison as in the case of Islam Mohammed Yousef Naji.

It is worth mentioning that in most incidents where an Israeli settler attacks a Palestinian citizen no Israeli army or police officer will intervene, make arrests or will chase the assailant. Israeli settlements will not be put under a strict siege and we will not see the collective punishments and aggressive raids that we see in Palestinian towns and villages after an incident. On 18 May an Israeli settler stabbed a Palestinian teenage boy in the neck, in occupied East Jerusalem. The Israeli assailant fled the scene directly after assaulting the teen. The Israeli police was called to the scene, but did not make any arrests or reveal further information.

Meanwhile Israel knows very well how to put Palestinian minors in administrative detention (detention without charge or trial). On 18 May an Israeli military court ordered  the extension of the detention of Palestinian teenager Qasem Abu Baker, 17, from the Palestinian village of Y’abad. He could have been one of the kids that were arrested while throwing stones at Israeli army jeeps. The mother of Qasem, told media outlets that the extension is the 6th to be imposed on the teen in the past 12 months since his arrest on April 2019. No house arrest for Qasem while an Israeli teen suspect in the murder case of the Dawabshe family was being released and placed under house arrest. Not to forget about the 16-year-old suspect we already mentioned that was charged with manslaughter after stoning Aisha Mohammed Talal al-Rabi to death and was placed under house arrest with his grandparents and could return to his hometown recently.

Palestinians and their right to resist

It is obvious that without detailed information on the circumstances around the killing of an Israeli soldier people will tend to believe that this was a terror attack or a cold blooded murder. What we should have learned from reports is that the frequent aggressive Israeli army invasions in Ya’bad were always resisted and will always be resisted by the Palestinian citizens of the town. The only goal of the Palestinian people is to resist the occupation, not to kill soldiers. And they have the right to resist according to international law: United Nations resolution 37/43, dated 3 December 1982, “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” Moreover, the resolution’s preamble makes clear that it refers not to a hypothetical in the abstract, but rather specifically to the rights of Palestinians, stating, “Considering that the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, sovereignty, independence and return to Palestine and the repeated acts of aggression by Israel against the peoples of the region constitute a serious threat to international peace and security.” 

Renowned professor Edward Said’s answer when he was asked: Throwing stones at Fatma Gate when Israel had just ended its occupation of southern Lebanon seems to be not only a celebration of liberation, but a very basic rejection of something. Of what? “A rejection of Israelis. The feeling is that after 22 years of occupying our land, they left. And there is also a sense of dismissal. Not only are you leaving, but good riddance to you. We don’t want you to come back. So the atmosphere is rather ‘carnivalesque,’ a sense of healthy anarchy, a triumphant feeling. For the first time in my life, and in the lives of the people gathering at Fatma Gate, we won. We won one.”

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