Qawasme's relatives mourn his death
Photo: AFP
Blood-soaked bed
Photo: AFP

IDF expresses regret over Hebron killing

Central Command chief orders swift investigation into death of 65-year-old Palestinian man during detention operation. Amr Qawasme's wife says he was asleep when troops raided house; soldiers thought he was attacking them

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit on Friday expressed its regret over the killing of a 65-year-old Palestinian during a detention operation in Hebron on Thursday night.


The army said in a statement that Central Command Chief Major-General Avi Mizrahi had ordered Brigadier-General Nitzan Alon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, to launch a swift investigation into the incident.


Sources familiar with detention activities in the West Bank admitted that the details published so far reveal that the Palestinian man's death was likely a mishap.


"IDF forces conduct arrests of this kind almost every night. This was also a relatively routine incident, not a complicated one and not a detention of senior wanted terror suspects," said a military source.


"The force conducting the arrest usually receives accurate information and is prepared for 'surprises' of different types, including being fired on by the wanted man or his people. In this case there were no gunshots, so the final outcome is grave and appears unnecessary. The investigation will have to look into the reasons for opening fire at the Palestinians and why it was fatal."


The source added that IDF forces involved in detention activities are instructed to be very cautious and direct their activity at the target only. "Anyone around him, including his family members, is not part of the mission and is mostly put into a side room.


"The details of tonight's incident reveal that the killed Palestinian did not run towards the soldiers. They might have thought he was waving a weapon, otherwise it's hard to explain the reason."


'Soldiers put a rifle to my head'

An IDF force raided Hebron in a bid to arrest five Hamas members released from jail Thursday by the Palestinian Authority, which gave in to their hunger strike. During the detention operation, soldiers entered an apartment on the second floor of a building in the city to arrest Wael Mahmad Said Bitar.


The soldiers shot and hit Amr Qawasme, apparently because they thought he was attacking them. According to neighbors, Bitar lives one storey below the killed Palestinian.


Qawasme's wife said he was asleep when soldiers broke into his home before dawn. The wife, Sobheye, said they brushed past her into the bedroom, where she heard several shots fired. When she went in, she found her husband in a pool of blood.


"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," she told Reuters after Qawasme's body was removed.


"I was shocked. They did not allow me to talk. I asked them, 'What did you do?' They asked me to shut up."


The soldiers said they fired at a figure moving towards them. Five wanted terror suspects were arrested during Thursday night's operation, including Bitar.


The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said Bitar aided Shahab Natashe, who executed twin suicide bombings in the southern city of Dimona in February 2008, which left one woman killed and 10 injured. After Shahab's assassination, Bitar led suicide bombings which were thwarted. He was arrested by the Palestinian Authority's security forces in September 2008 and released Thursday.


Reuters contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 01.07.11, 12:50
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