Terror in Palestine as Israel’s Military Death Squads Join the Settlers in Killing Palestinians
“If the soldiers had shot a dog… it would have attracted more attention. But a dead Palestinian child?… Why should it interest anyone, why is it important?” Gideon Levy
Al-Harika, central Hebron: Settlers throw stones at Palestinian passersby and homes in presence of soldiers, who raid home and harrass inhabitants on pretext that one threw stones
The news has been dominated by the defection of a Belorussian athlete and the Olympic games. The terror campaign being waged by the Israeli military and settlers against the Palestinians isn’t considered fit to grace the screens of the BBC or the press.
To gain the attention of the BBC or ITN we would need the Palestinians in Gaza to fire a few firecrackers into Israel and see the Israelis disappear into their bomb shelters. Palestinian deaths are not news because politically they are not White (and don’t have bomb shelters).
That is why I am highlighting just a few of the many terrorist attacks by Israel on an unarmed civilian population.
The incidents speak for themselves and require no commentary. However to vile creatures like Keir Starmer, who is gracing the dining tables of Israeli Embassy front group, Labour Friends of Israel, in November, what matters is non-existent anti-Semitism.
Gideon Levy, Haaretz
Israeli terror is at it again. The Israel Defense Forces’ death squads chalked up another successful week: four bodies of innocent Palestinians piled up between the two Fridays. There doesn’t seem to be a connection between the four incidents in which four sons were killed, but the link cannot be broken.
In all these cases, soldiers chose shooting to kill as the preferred option. In all four cases another way could have been chosen: Arrest them, aim for the legs, don’t do anything or simply don’t be there at all. But the soldiers chose to kill. It’s probably easier for them that way.
They come from different branches of the army with different backgrounds, but they share the incredible ease with which they kill, whether they have to or not.
They kill because they can. They kill because they’re convinced that this is how they’re expected to act. They kill because they know that nothing is cheaper than the life of a Palestinian. They kill because they know that the Israeli media will yawn and not report a thing. They kill because they know that no harm will come to them, so why not? Why not kill a Palestinian when possible?
They killed a 12-year-old boy and a 41-year-old plumber. They killed a 17-year-old youth and a 20-year-old young man attending a funeral, all in one week. An Israeli slogan during the 1948 war went “To arms, every good man,” leading later to the concept of the IDF’s “purity of arms.” Four in one week, for no reason, with no hesitation, with no terrorist facing them. Four executions of young men with dreams, families, plans and loves.
None of the four endangered the soldiers, certainly not in a way that justified lethal fire. Thirteen bullets at a car driving by innocently, carrying a father and his three small children. Shooting a plumber holding a wrench and claiming that he was “moving rapidly toward the soldiers.” Three bullets at the stomach of a 17-year-old who was on his way to take his brother home.
All this can be called terror; there is no other definition. All this can be called the actions of death squads; there is no other description. It sounds horrible, but it really is horrific.
It could be less horrific if the Israeli media bothered to report on it, possibly shocking Israelis. It could be much less horrific if IDF commanders took the necessary steps given their army’s murderous recklessness. But most of the media believed that the killing of a child interests no one or is unimportant, or both, so this shocking incident wasn’t reported on.
If the soldiers had shot a dog – also a shocking act, of course – it would have attracted more attention. But a dead Palestinian child? What happened? Why should it interest anyone, why is it important?
“Are you working for the Arabs?” journalist Yinon Magal maliciously tweeted, addressing Haaretz’s Hagar Shezaf, virtually the only journalist who covered the boy’s funeral. This is the new journalistic ethos: Reporting the truth is tantamount to working for the Arabs.
Let’s leave aside the media of trivia and nonsense that was busy to the hilt with the modeling agent suspected of sexual misconduct and with lists of pedophiles – what does the media have to do with the killing of children? The question is: Where are the military commanders and the political leaders?
Their disgraceful silence leads to only one conclusion: They believe that this killing is acceptable. It’s exactly what they expect of soldiers: the killing of innocents. There is no other way to explain everyone’s silence without even a semblance of condemnation.
If the killers of the boy Mohammed al-Alami are still not in custody, then the IDF under Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi – a person known to speak in lofty terms about values – is saying that the soldiers acted correctly. If the paratroopers who killed Mohammed Tamimi by firing three bullets into his body from their armored jeep are still walking around freely in the West Bank, this means the army salutes them.
And if the IDF salutes them, we really are talking about death squads, just like in the most dreadful regimes.
The door of an Israeli army jeep that had entered the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh for no apparent reason suddenly opened and a soldier shot 17-year-old Mohammed Tamimi, while his cousin looked on in shock
Jul. 30, 2021 10:47 AM
Mahmoud Tamimi climbs the trunk of the dead olive tree in the yard of his house, and hoists the flag of Palestine. He’s a boy of 13 who last Friday lost his older brother, 17-year-old Mohammed, who was shot to death by Israel Defense Forces soldiers while he was on his way to fetch Mahmoud. Their younger brother, Mustafa, is named for another Mustafa Tamimi, their cousin, who was killed by soldiers in 2011.
Mohammed Munir Tamimi was the fifth person killed in recent years in the village of Nabi Saleh, not far from Ramallah in the West Bank….
Of all the killings in Nabi Saleh, the death of Mohammed is perhaps the most criminal of all. The soldiers had no apparent reason to enter the village a week ago, when it was quiet – and even less of one to open the armoured door of their jeep, shoot the youth in the stomach from close range and then close the door. And if that wasn’t enough, soldiers who were walking behind the vehicle fired more bullets at the wounded teen who was trying to flee for his life into an adjacent house, but collapsed, bleeding, on the way to its entrance.
Nabi Saleh called off its regular Friday anti-occupation demonstrations in 2016, after six years, when the IDF started to use snipers and live ammunition against the unarmed inhabitants. But more people have been killed there since the demonstrations ended than during the period when they were taking place.
On Friday the first rumor that spread was that it was Mohammed, the brother of Ahed Tamimi, the young activist-heroine of the Palestinians’ popular struggle, who had been killed. There are dozens and perhaps hundreds of people named Mohammed (or Mohammad or Muhammad) Tamimi. The teen who was shot was not Ahed’s brother, but her cousin. Ahed’s brother was with him when he was killed; the two youths were close.
Ahed’s father, Bassem Tamimi, one of the leaders of the struggle in Nabi Saleh, joined us during our visit to the events hall where the grieving family was receiving condolences in Deir Nidham. The bereaved father, Munir, speaks fluent Hebrew, having worked for decades in Israel and in the settlements. For 30 years, he’s worked as a home renovator and air-conditioner technician in the settlement of Beit Aryeh. He has many friends there who wanted to pay their condolences, he tells us, but he suggested that they refrain from visiting during the tense grieving period in the village.
Munir Tamimi, Mohammed’s father. Credit: Alex Levac
“They are friends-brothers who wanted to come, but I want to make sure that no one will be hurt,” he says.
Bassem Tamimi relates that a jeep arrived in Nabi Saleh around 4:30 P.M. and stopped at the gas station at the village’s entrance before proceeding. It was quiet at the time. During the years of the demonstrations, the IDF arrested about 400 locals, most of them adolescents and children, and including 16 women, out of a total local population of about 600.
When the jeep drove in this time, youngsters began throwing stones at it. The soldiers fired tear-gas canisters, and a cloud of gas covered the village – a familiar experience. But Mahmoud, the younger brother of the deceased, recently recovered from cancer of the eye, and his mother, worried that the gas would endanger the recovering eye, sent Mohammed to the home of relatives where Mahmoud had been told to go, in order to bring him home. Their father was installing an air conditioner in the neighboring village of Deir Abu Mash’al at the time.
The home of the Tamimi family in Nabi Saleh, this week. More people have been killed since the protests ended there in 2016 than during the six years when they took place.Credit: Alex Levac
Munir, 52, has four remaining children. He’s a solidly built man, suited to his livelihood. He met his wife, Baraa, 40, in Jordan. Her family immigrated long ago to the United States, and she too has American citizenship. During the first 13 years of their marriage, Israel did not allow her to enter the West Bank, and the family was divided between Zarqa in Jordan and Nabi Saleh. Munir’s work is in the West Bank but his wife was not permitted to go there. He divided his life between here and there, crossing into Jordan every two or three months to see his family and then going back.
Friday, July 23, Mohammed got up around 8:30 A.M. and went to work in the family’s olive grove ahead of the fall harvest. In the afternoon, as tear gas spread through the village, his worried mother sent him to find his younger brother Mahmoud and try to bring him home. According to his father, Mohammed didn’t do anything to provoke the soldiers. The IDF jeep stopped near him, its door opened and the one shot fired from it hit Mohammed. He doubled over in pain and tried with his remaining strength to flee, but then four soldiers on foot felled him with two more bullets.
The physicians who treated him later told his father that one of the three bullets exploded in the teenager’s stomach and did not leave a single internal organ intact. Everything is torn apart inside, they told him. The cousin Mohammed, Bassem’s shocked son, told his father that he “saw the rice spill out of Mohammed’s stomach.” According to Munir, who saw his son’s body in the small hospital in Salfit, one bullet struck him in his right hip, another entered via the back and exited through the stomach – or vice versa – and the deadliest bullet of all slammed into his buttocks and hurtled upward throughout his body, wreaking havoc.
Three videos were shot by three local eyewitnesses. In one clip, the armored door of the IDF vehicle is seen opening for a split second and the soldier next to the driver fires a shot and shuts the door; another soldier then opens the back door and closes it immediately. In the second clip, the jeep is seen in the street, being pelted by villagers with plastic chairs and rocks, without doing any damage. The third clip shows the bloodstains and people evacuating Mohammed from the path leading to a nearby house. It’s not clear what preceded what, but it’s even less clear what the jeep was doing there and why it stopped so provocatively in the middle of the village. The red-and-white flag of the Paratroops Brigade flaps in the wind above the fortified tower that looms over the entrance to the village, a sign that the soldiers who shot Mohammed also wore the telltale red berets.
Graffiti on a wall in Nabi Saleh depicts Mohammed Tamimi.Credit: Alex Levac
Haaretz asked the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit why the army vehicle entered the village in the first place and why Mohammed Tamimi was shot. Why with live ammunition? And why with three bullets to the gut? The reply:
“Following the incident in question, an investigation has been opened by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Military Police, after which the findings will be transferred for examination to the office of the military prosecution.”
Mohammed was apparently still semi-conscious when the neighbors rushed him in a small shared taxi to the hospital in Salfit; he mumbled that his stomach hurt. He died on the operating table. By the time his stunned father reached the hospital, it was too late.
When we visited this week, his brother Mahmoud, a pale boy with a sickly looking eye, took us to the place where Mohammed was killed and showed us the bloodstain on the road and another at the place where he fell, en route to the house.As we left Nabi Saleh, we saw Ahed Tamimi returning from her studies at Birzeit University in her small car. In March 2018 she was convicted on four counts of assaulting an IDF officer and a soldier, and sentenced to eight months in prison. Her aunt and uncle were killed by the army. Another relative named Mohammed, 15, was shot in the head in 2017 across from her house by soldiers using a rubber-coated metal bullet; he lost an eye and remains disabled. Now her cousin Mohammed Munir Tamimi has been killed, too.
Israeli settlers attack Palestinians & Soldiers escorting them fire at them, South Hebron Hills
On Saturday, 26 June 2021, some 20 settlers invaded the village of a-Tuwani, stoned residents and beat some with sticks, injuring one. Soldiers then escorted the settlers to other communities. A settler fired at Palestinians and several others torched an agricultural structure of an a-Tuwani resident and damaged his olive grove. After the settlers retreated, other soldiers arrived and fired live fire and tear gas at the Palestinians and their homes. This is life for Masafer Yatta residents, whom Israel works to expel from their land.
Israeli soldier kills Husam ‘Asayrah during violent settler raid on ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, 14 May 2021
On 14 May 2021, settlers and soldiers came to the village in Nablus District. The settlers threw stones at homes and residents and fired in the air, and residents threw stones at them. The soldiers used force against the residents instead of distancing the settlers. After the party moved to a distant hilltop, a soldier shot and killed ‘Asirah and injured another resident although they posed no danger. Such collaboration between soldiers and settlers is part of Israel’s unofficial policy to drive Palestinians out and take over West Bank land. Read full incident report:
Israeli settlers and soldiers harass residents of al Harika neighborhood central Hebron
Al-Harika, central Hebron: Settlers throw stones at Palestinian passersby and homes in presence of soldiers, who raid home and harrass inhabitants on pretext that one threw stones
A Local Call investigation reveals how on a single day in May, Israeli settlers and soldiers cooperated in attacks that left four Palestinians dead. The unprecedented spate of joint assaults has inaugurated a new era of terror.
By Yuval Abraham July 15, 2021
Nidal Safadi was a quiet man, his neighbors said. He lived in Urif, a Palestinian village of several thousand people in the West Bank. Just 25, Safadi had three children with his wife and a fourth, a girl, on the way.
Urif is not always quiet. With the Palestinian city of Nablus less than 10 miles away, the occupying Israeli military established a base on a nearby hilltop in 1983. A year later, it was turned over to civilian purposes: part of Israel’s illegal settlement program in the Palestinian territories. Since 2000, the settlement, called Yitzhar, has been home to a yeshiva known for its hard-line Jewish nationalist views; the settlement has become known for its extremism. The so-called outpost settlements it has spurred — illegal even by Israeli law, but nonetheless defended by the Israel Defense Forces — have gradually encroached on villages like Urif. Over the past 10 years, settler aggressions have given rise to violent recriminations between the Israelis and Palestinians living nearby.
“There were many protests in the area, but Urif was quiet,” said Mazen Shehadeh, head of the village council. “It is a small village and the residents stayed indoors. Had the settlers not arrived to attack the houses, nothing would have happened.”
Shehadeh said a group of settlers arrived at about 2 p.m., along with six soldiers, and began wreaking havoc. “The settlers uprooted almost 60 fig and olive trees,” he said. “Then they attacked the school with stones and broke its solar panels.” The damage was still evident when I visited a month after the attack. “While the settlers did all of that, the soldiers covered for them by gunfire,” Shehadeh continued.
“The soldiers led, gave orders, everything looked coordinated. The soldiers pointed for the settlers, where to go, where to uproot, and then they shot at anybody who tried to get close. After a few minutes, residents came to protect the village.”
One of the villagers who arrived was Nidal Safadi. “Nidal arrived at the school terrified,” said his brother, who asked that his name not be used for fear of retribution. “We have relatives who live nearby, and the mosque’s loudspeaker announced that the settlers were attacking, so he ran.”
Photos and videos from the scene show settlers and soldiers from the IDF aiming their weapons toward the Palestinian villagers. One video, obtained by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, shows a shirtless settler with a face covering walking around and chatting with nearby soldiers. At one point, the settler, armed with an automatic rifle, stands directly in front of a soldier, takes aim toward the villagers, and opens fire. Other photos show settlers and soldiers alike with weapons raised.
Amid the chaos, Safadi was struck by four bullets in the chest and abdomen, according to Shehadeh. He died of his wounds.
“We do not know whether it was a settler or a soldier who shot him,” Shehadeh said. “We had many who were wounded by gunfire that day. Nine people were hurt: one in the abdomen, another was shot three centimeters from his heart. And there was Nidal, who got killed.”
Shehadeh went on,
“It was a planned attack. Revenge, not a confrontation. We used to have clashes every day and it never looked like that. They didn’t use live ammunition before, only tear gas and rubber bullets. Also, more soldiers used to be present.”
Safadi’s death was one of 11 violent killings of Palestinians in the West Bank on May 14, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. While Israeli media reported that the killings occurred amid “clashes” — implying the widespread protests over Al-Aqsa and the Gaza bombings — at least four of the deaths occurred during deliberate attacks by settlers and soldiers on Palestinian villages, an investigation by Local Call and The Intercept found.
The joint attacks by Israeli settlers and soldiers were not linked to protests in the targeted villages; no demonstrations preceded the violence in three of the four locations. The incursions all occurred at almost the same time, around 2 p.m., and all involved the settlers destroying agricultural land, including by setting fires, as well as stone throwing and the use of live ammunition.
Attacks on Palestinians by stone-throwing settlers, as Israeli soldiers stand idly by, are a common occurrence in the occupied Palestinian territories. But scenes like those from May 14 — settlers and soldiers attacking villages in apparent cooperation, with live ammunition — are unprecedented.
“The only way I can describe this is by calling it militias,” said Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, an attorney and a partner in Haqel-Jews and Arabs in Defense of Human Rights, an organization that works in the Israeli court system to represent Palestinians who have faced settler violence. “These cases, in which soldiers enter villages together with settlers, and in which there is massive gunfire by settlers — this is unprecedented.”
Five such attacks on May 14 left four Palestinians dead. One was killed in the village of Asira Al-Qibliya, in the Nablus area; another in Iskaka, near the Israeli settlement Ariel; a third in the village Al Reihiya, in South Mount Hebron; and Nidal Safidi in Urif. In the fifth village, Burin, which is also near Nablus, a similar attack ended without any deaths.
View of the Palestinian village of Urif, near the settlement of Yitzhar, in the West Bank, on December 1, 2019. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
Videos, photographs, and villagers’ testimonies of the attacks indicate that, in at least three cases, Israeli settlers and soldiers acted as a combined fighting unit, effectively working as a joint militia attacking civilians and firing interchangeably at Palestinian residents. Coordination between the military and settlers is a burgeoning political issue in Israel: On Tuesday, 100 former combat soldiers sent a letter to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz demanding he take action against settler violence that they themselves had witnessed during their service.
“In the past year, settler violence has intensified and manifested in, among other things, property destruction, stone throwing, and physical violence against Palestinians,”
the former soldiers wrote.
“We are the ones who witnessed how the ‘lords of the land’ behave unrestricted and what this violence looks like on the ground. We were sent to defend them but were not given the tools to deal with them.”
Palestinian women mourn at the funeral of Nidal Safadi in the West Bank village of Urif, near Nablus, on May 14, 2021.Photo: Majdi Mohammed/AP
Local Call and The Intercept sent a detailed description of our findings to an IDF spokesperson, including photographs and footage. The spokesperson said the cases “are under processes of checking and investigating.” Though the IDF spokesperson declined to comment on many of the specifics, they acknowledged, in response to one of the photographs showing a settler closely interacting with an IDF officer in Urif, that the settler was in the area without permission.
No autopsy was carried out on Safadi’s body, nor on those of the other Palestinians killed that day, so there is no way of determining whether soldiers or settlers were responsible for the deaths. Israeli police have not announced any inquiries into the killings.
Update [July 18]: Following publication of this story, the IDF Spokesperson announced that the Investigative Military Police launched an inquiry into the death of Nidal Safadi in Urif. Neither the army nor the Israeli police have announced any inquiries into the other three killings described below.
Despite the common time frame and modus operandi, there is no evidence that the May 14 attacks were coordinated. Some settler ideologues, though, did note the confluence of events. Zvi Sukot, a spokesperson of the settlement Yitzhar and a rising online star of the movement, posted photos from some of the incidents on Facebook. The photos he shared show, among other things, a dead Palestinian with a bullet in his head and another with a bleeding chest, as well as a host of bodies lying prone in various settings.
“The security situation in Samaria is excellent. No need for protests!!” Sukot wrote in his Facebook post, asking his fellow settlers to stay at home. He used the common Israeli term “Samaria” to describe the northern West Bank. There are “casualties, lots of people injured and serious trauma on the Arab side,” he wrote. “In all my years in Samaria, I do not remember the army being that determined.”
A settler, armed with an automatic rifle, aims and opens fire at Palestinian villagers, Urif, May 14, 2021. (Mazen Shehadeh)
Many village residents interviewed by Local Call and The Intercept attributed the attacks to “revenge” by both soldiers and settlers — apparently for protests against the Israeli assaults on Al-Aqsa and Gaza, as well as unrest in “mixed” cities inside Israel. The incursions fit into a pattern of so-called price tag attacks, where settlers launch retributive assaults on anyone deemed to be even remotely viewed as an obstacle to their movement.
The yeshiva in Yitzhar, near Urif, was instrumental in formulating the religious justification for “price tag” attacks. The concept gained notoriety among some Israeli Jews because it rationalized attacks against the Israeli military in rare cases where, for instance, the IDF was used to evacuate settlement outposts. The most common targets of “price tag” attacks, however, are Palestinian civilians. On May 14, soldiers were far from being targets or even ineffectual bystanders. Instead, they were active participants and collaborators in the joint assaults.
“The army now perceives the settlers as an auxiliary fighting force,” said Mishirqi-Assad, the human rights lawyer.
“The cooperation is more transparent. No one is ashamed of it. The soldiers see the settlers as a backing force, it is very noticeable. And the settlers, too, are more fearless. It’s clear that things have become more organized over the last year.”
Women sob during the funeral of Hussam Asaira, killed the day before during a demonstration in West Bank against Israeli attacks, in Nablus, West Bank, on May 15, 2021. Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Palestinians trying to extinguish the fires sparked by Jewish settlers on agricultural land in the southern West Bank village of Safa, near Hebron, on July 13, 2009. (Najeh Hashlamoun/Flash90)
In January, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem charged Israel with maintaining an “apartheid… regime of “Jewish supremacy” from the river to the sea.
Now the organization has released two videos from the occupied territories that document this reality in chilling ways– as they show Israeli occupiers, some in uniform, abusing Palestinians in sexually degrading terms during the recent Gaza war. Published July 12, the videos capture the racist, homophobic, and misogynist abuse of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.
Both videos were shot by Palestinians in occupied Hebron on May 13, during the Muslim holiday of ‘Eid al-Fitr. (And B’Tselem issued a press release about the dehumanizing language.)
Here are excerpts of some of that abuse. Warning, the language is highly offensive.
In the first video, Israeli soldiers raid a home in the Palestinian neighborhood of Al-Harika in Hebron. The soldiers break windows and threaten residents as they look for a young stone thrower. The soldiers ignore settlers who throw stones at Palestinians.
The soldiers abuse a Palestinian woman who bravely holds a camera, documenting the raid for B’Tselem, and threaten to break her camera:
Palestinian woman: I didn’t see anyone throw a rock.
Soldier: Because you are very fat. And ugly.
Palestinian: I do my job, I work for B’Tselem.
Soldier: One more time, I break your camera. Alright? You understand me?
Palestinian: I’ll take another camera. It’s not a problem. I have many cameras.
Soldier: Mother, why is your son throwing stones at the soldiers?
As the soldiers leave the house, one blows a kiss to her, a second says, “Happy holiday,” and a third sings, “Hey, sexy lady!”
Screenshot of B’Tselem video of Israeli raid on Palestinian home in occupied Hebron, May 13, 2021.
The second video records events that night in the same neighborhood. Israeli settlers from the illegal colony of Kiryat Arba, built on the eastern side of Hebron, shout racist abuse and sexual threats at Palestinians from a fence, as Israeli soldiers raid the Al-Harika neighborhood.
Settler: Come on, you snitches, you whores.
Settler: I’ll fuck up this entire village. What do you call this fucking family? All by myself, you asshole. Listen, you dog. Listen up, you pig. I’m fucking you, you dog. I’m fucking your mother and your sister.
Settler: Death to Arabs.
Settler: You dog, you dog. Muhammad’s a pig.
Settler: Muhammad’s a son of a bitch.
Settler: Come, come, I’ll fuck you.
Settler: Muhammad’s dead, you asshole.
Settler [hearing boy’s voice]: You’re hiding behind kids, you faggot. I’ll fuck you. You tranny, you coward.
Settler: Come on, I’ll fuck you, you faggot.
Settler: Come on, I’ll open up your ass.
Settler: Gaza’s on fire, you coward, you faggot.
The same video captures an encounter that day outside a Palestinian home, this time with an Israeli soldier hurling abuse.
Soldier: I spit on Palestine. Fuck your mother.
Soldier: I don’t give a fuck. I’m the Israeli army.
Soldier: Throw it, you faggot.
Soldier: Palestine, you assholes.
Soldier: Go get your mother, you faggot. Come on, bring her here, I’ll fuck her. Come on.
Of course these encounters with occupying forces are often deadly. Here is a new report from 972, also based on a B’Tselem video, about Israeli soldiers coordinating attacks on Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank with masked Jewish settlers, including a half-clad sniper.
The attacks took place on May 14, a day on which four Palestinian villagers were killed in what appear to be “pricetag” attacks– retribution against Palestinians for protests against Israeli actions.