Al Jazeera – 2011-01-20 23:28:58
Israel Discharges Soldier over ‘Botched Raid’
TEL AVIV (January 20, 2011) — An Israeli soldier has been discharged over the killing of an unarmed Palestinian man as he slept in his bedroom in the occupied West Bank. In a statement, the Israeli military said it “deeply regrets” the shooting dead of 65-year-old Amr Qawasme in the botched raid to seize a Hamas fighter on January 7.â€¨â€¨â€¨
Israeli soldiers were hunting for five Hamas fighters recently released from a Palestinian jail when they forced their way into Qawasme’s home and shot him.
Qawasme lived with his family one floor above one of the wanted men’s homes. â€¨â€¨The army had previously admitted that the killing was a mistake, but a military inquiry said a “suspicious movement” led one squad member to open fire, believing his life was in danger.â€¨
Rules of Engagement
The army exonerated the soldier who shot first, with a general who was presented with the results of the investigation concluding that the “firing was executed in accordance with the [Israeli army’s] rules of engagement”. A second commando who joined in the shooting was, however, dismissed from service.
The general “ordered the soldier’s military term be terminated”. He concluded that while the commando “did feel threatened, he acted unprofessionally”. No further details were given.
There was no immediate Palestinian reaction to the army’s decision, although a Palestinian official had earlier described the shooting as a “cold-blooded killing”.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian man who opened fire on Israeli troops at a checkpost in the northern West Bank was killed on Thursday.
The Israeli military said the man had approached the post near the settlement of Mevo Dotan and opened fire with a Kalashnikov rifle, after shouting “Allahu Akbar.â€¨â€¨
Itamar Ashenazi, the deputy commander of the battalion involved in the incident, said the man approached the checkpost on a donkey. He then dismounted and began to walk towards the Israeli soldiers, prompting four of them to point their weapons at him.
“He didn’t stop, he shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and started firing to the soldiers,” Ashenazi said. “They fired the first shots in the air and when he didn’t stop shooting … they shot him.” The shooting took place near the settlement of Mevo Dotan, some 10km southwest of the town of Jenin.
Palestinian security officials named the dead man as 23-year-old Saalem Mohammed Samudi from Yamun village near Jenin, saying he was a relative and very close friend of another Palestinian shot dead by troops on January 8 at a checkpoint near Nablus. In that incident, Khaldun Samudi was shot dead as he ran towards the checkpoint.
It was the third time this month that troops have shot dead a Palestinian at an army post or checkpoint. On January 2, Israeli troops at the same checkpoint near Nablus shot and killed a Palestinian after he entered the wrong lane holding a bottle that troops apparently mistook for a weapon.
Palestinian Killed in Israeli Raid
HEBRON (January 7. 2011) — Israeli troops have shot dead a sleeping Palestinian man during a dawn raid in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
Family members found Omar al-Qawasmeh, 66, in a pool of blood in the bedroom after soldiers broke into several homes in the city’s al-Sheikh neighbourhood on Friday.
The raid came less than 24 hours after six Hamas fighters who had been on hunger strike in Palestinian jails were released on Thursday.
Five of them were from Hebron, and one of them, Wael Bitar, arrested by the Israelis, lived one storey below the victim, residents said.
“I was praying when they entered. I do not know how they opened the door. They put their hand to my mouth and a rifle to my head,” al-Qawasmeh’s wife told the Reuters news agency.
“I was shocked. They did not allow me to talk. I asked them, ‘What did you do?’ They asked me to shut up.” Later, the Israeli army issued a statement acknowedging that al-Qawasmeh’s killing was unintended. It said he “was present in one of the terrorist’s homes”.
An Israeli military spokesman told the AFP news agency: “There is no indication that [al-Qawasmeh] was involved in any terror activity at any stage and therefore we regret the incident.” An immediate investigation has been ordered, with a report expected by next week, according to the Israeli army statement.
Shot at Close Range
Al Jazeera‘s Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from Ramallah in the West Bank, said al-Qawasmeh was shot at close range with multiple bullets in the head and chest, and was already dead by the time he reached the hospital.
“According to the family, the soldiers appeared very flustered after killing al-Qawasmeh and asked one of the sons whether that was Bitar. When told he was not, they went to Bitar’s apartment one floor below to arrest him and left the building,” she said.
“The Palestinian Authority said they were very angry with this incident and called it the execution of an elderly Palestinian citizen. They consider it an incitement against the Palestinian Authority and an unjustified crime that will lead to instability in the region.”
Separately, the Israeli army confirmed the arrest of Bitar, who it described as a “senior member of the Hamas armed infrastructure in the Hebron region”.
The army said “Bitar was the assistant of Shehab Natshe, who planned the suicide bombing in Dimona of 2008”.
In addition to Bitar, four “Hamas operatives who were working alongside [him]” were also arrested overnight. “All five of the men were released from a Palestinian prison on Thursday,” the Israeli army statement said.
Gaza Targets Hit
In other incidents, the Israeli military said fighter jets attacked two targets in Gaza overnight in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian territory, which is governed by Hamas. One of the targets of the raid was a tunnel Hamas fighters dug into Israel under the border fence, the military statement.
Friday’s raids come as tensions continue to rise in Gaza. Overnight, between Wednesday and Thursday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians who they said were trying to get across the border fence into Israel.
Earlier, on Wednesday, Palestinian fighters fired seven projectiles, most of them mortar shells, across the border, Israeli sources said. No casualties or damage was reported.
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