Ghassan Andoni/ IMEMC-Op-Ed – 2004-06-07 07:51:20
QALANDIA REFUGEE CAMP (June 7, 2004) — It is becoming harder to listen to army spokespersons’ accounts on incidents that includes the killing of local Palestinians, especially when the killings take place in a clash with stone throwing youths.
Explaining the killing of Wheelchair-bound Arafat Yaquob 31, from Qalandia refugee camp on Sunday night, a military source reported that “troops tried to disperse a violent protest in the area, which was disrupting repair work at the Atarot airport. Troops fired warning shots, which hit the Wheelchair bound Palestinian.” The source added that the army is investigating the incident.
Local Palestinian sources reported that troops fired life ammunition towards the group of youth in a stone-throwing clash in the area. Arafat Ibrahim Yakub, who was wounded in the first Intifada and had been confined to a wheelchair since 1987.
Both sides confirmed a clash between stone throwers and soldiers near Qalndia military check post. The debate is around shooting regulations.
In a riot situation, soldiers are entitled to work to disperse demonstrators, including firing warning shots in the air, but the human norms in similar situations forbid firing towards a crowd of people without being in a life-threatening situation.
Knowing the topography and conditions of the clash site, it is beyond imagination that soldiers were under such a threat.
Qalandia refugee camp is across the main road from Atarot airport. A fence and a 6-meters-high cement wall stand in between. Soldiers are stationed at a hilly area while protesters are in a plane area. Army snipers are stationed at points overlooking the plane area.
Waring Shots Should Not Be Deadly
When army talks about warning shots, one could imagine them firing up in the sky or at least above the heads of demonstrators. How would that explain hitting a wheel chaired person who is very unlikely to have participated in stone throwing?
In similar situations, and when army was under pressure to investigate, army had to retreat from earlier statements used to cover for soldiers performance.
For example, in the case of the British peace activist Tom Hurandall who was shot dead by soldiers as he attempted to move two Palestinian children away from army fire line, an official army statement accused Hurandall with being armed and shooting at soldiers.
Later, army backed away from its first statement and announced killing an armed Palestinian at the site. Finally, a soldier had to admit shooting “without any provocation” for deterrence purposes. To conclude, stating that army is investigating the killing of the wheel chaired Palestinian is not enough. The huge number of non- engaged innocent Palestinians killed during the recent crisis should be dealt with seriously.
With that much unnecessary killings, a river of blood would block the way in front of any possible peace efforts or future reconciliation.