Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, BÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Tselem, and the Israeli online daily Haaretz, conducted a probe into the killing of five Palestinians by the Israeli army in Tulkarem refugee camp, on August 24, and revealed that the five residents were unarmed, and not fighters, which contradicts the version of the Israeli army.
The Israeli army announced that the operation was carried as follows; Ã¢â‚¬Å“Five [terrorists] responsible for the attacks at the Stage club and Hasharon Mall in Netanya were killed in TulkaremÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Yet the announcement was changed several times, the army said that following residents were killed in the attack; Anas Abu Zreina, 16, is ‘an accessory to wanted fighters’, Adel Abu Khaleel, 26, was described as a senior Islamic Jihad operative from Atteel village near Tulkarem, Majdi Ateyya, 18, described as member of Al Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fateh, and was also described as somebody who prepared explosives and took part in attacks against the army, Majdi A-team, 20, member of Al Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fateh, Mahmoud Ismail Hdeib, 18.
Meanwhile, material collected by BÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Tselem and Haaretz revealed that the three teenage boys, Mohammed Othman Abu Zeina, 17, Mahmoud Ehdieb, 17, and Anas Abu Zreina, 16, are not members of any reistance group.
The two adults killed in the operation were unarmed, and were shot at short range from 10-15 meters away, while they were in a largely-enclosed courtyard.
Witnesses in Tulkarem refugee camp, where the assassinations took place, said that they heard the soldiers shout at the group ‘Stop’ and ‘Don’t move,’ but seconds later, the soldiers opened fire without giving the men a chance to turn themselves in. Some ran in every direction, and some were killed on the spot.
Also, witnesses said that in several cases the soldiers proceeded to confirm the kill with close-range shots. The witnesses added that there had been no exchange of fire in the vicinity, nor were Molotov cocktails thrown at the troops, which contradict the army version of the events.
Before the operation began, some wanted fighters passed by the area, including Ribhi Amara, a senior Hamas fighter in the camp, who spotted the army and fled away into an alley in the camp, a Palestinian policeman Musheer Al Masry, member of force 17, also escaped leaving his gun licensed behind.
A whiteness who identified himself as (A) owns a store close to the courtyard, where the youth were killed.Ã‚Â
(A) said that at around 11:15 P.M. that night he was sitting at the store’s entrance with his 3-year-old daughter, when he saw a long white van with Palestinian plates and curtained windows.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The van stopped, and soldiers jumped out of it, they rushed toward structure next to the courtyard where the fatalities occurred and began shoutingÃ¢â‚¬Â, A reported, Ã¢â‚¬Å“At that point other soldiers had already run toward me and ordered me to lie face down on the ground. I hugged the child tight and didn’t move until it was all over,’ A. added.
Also, resident (P) lives about 50 meters from the site in an apartment overlooking the courtyard. ‘I was on the roof when I heard the shouting and then the shooting,’ he told investigators from B’Tselem.
‘When I looked down and saw soldiers on both sides of the building shooting into the courtyard. I saw youth trying to flee in every direction and the soldiers approaching Abu Khaleel, who was lying face down. I had just seen them shoot at him from up close when I heard a burst of gunfire on the wall by my side, and I drew back. Only later did I look again and was able to see the bodies. And then the soldiers continued shooting at the adjacent houses so nobody would come near.’
From this and other testimony it became known that the soldiers took cover on either side of the concrete building, and after shouting they opened fire into the courtyard. There were two groups in the courtyard at the time; one group, close to the entrance of Ahadib’s house, included Ehdeb, Ateya, Abu Khalil and the Force 17 man, Mansouri. A few meters from there sat teenagers Abu Zeina and Othman, along with several of their classmates from the high school in Tulkarem refugee camp.
A youth, identified as Tariq Zayit, 17, who was present at the scene said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We stood and talked. Anas had brought invitations to his brother’s wedding, which was two days later, and everyone was in a good mood and eating sunflower seeds. And then we heard the shouts. Everybody jumped in fright, and I turned around and began runningÃ¢â‚¬Â, he said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I felt that my hand was bleeding, but I continued running for my life, later on I heard about what happened to the othersÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Ateyya Abu Khaleel was killed on the spot, EhdebÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mother heard the shooting from inside her was, she peeked out after everything was over, and saw her sonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s body through the door, while Ateyya made it to the alley were here collapsed and died of his wounds.
Mansouri, was the closest to the courtyard door, ran to the alley and threw away his gun, and fled to a nearby fence. Abu Zeina also jumped there but collapsed in the alley across the way and was taken by the soldiers to Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava, where he later died of his wounds.
After the shooting stopped, additional units of the army invaded the camp as reinforcements.
The Israeli army claimed that the three teens killed in the attack, who lived at most 150 meters away from each other, had connections with fighters and assisted them.
Anas Abu Zeina was a high school student who worked in a vegetable store in the Tulkarem market and had never been arrested. His older brother Ziad is in prison in Israel for membership in Fateh. Neither was Mohammed Othman known to have any connection to an organization, his father works in construction in Israel.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They could have taken my son into custody easily, if they wanted toÃ¢â‚¬Â, Mahmoud EhdiebÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s father said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“he never took part of any activity against the army, never worked with any group, he had been wearing a diaper recently because he was incontinentÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Mahmoud also had epilepsy and received treatment at Rambam Israeli hospital in Haifa.
As for the two adults killed in the attack, the army was not sure of their level of Ã¢â‚¬Å“wantednessÃ¢â‚¬Â. The family of Ateyya Abu Khaleel is known as Fateh supporters, as do at least half of the families in Tulkarem refugee camp. His father was not considered wanted to the Israeli army.
Abu Khaleel was active with the Islamic Jihad, but he turned himself in to the Palestinian Authority after stopping his activities and used to sleep at police stations for protection. The Islamic Jihad movement confirmed that he left the organization before he was killed by the army.
Meanwhile, the army refused to categorize the five residents who were killed, and did not clearly state whether any of them was armed; the military report opted to generally refer to what was described as Ã¢â‚¬Å“armed menÃ¢â‚¬Â, and refused to comment on Ã¢â‚¬Å“confirm killÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The army, and after repeated requests for clarifications on whether any of the killed residents were arrested before, claimed that three of them (Abu Khaleel, Ateyya, and Abu Zeina) were previously arrested by the army.
Also, the army said that Ã¢â‚¬Å“it is impossible to know for sure if there had weapons with them, because the Special Forces were there before the armyÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Israeli military official spokesman issued the following statement, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The army operated in Tulkarem refugee camp in order to arrested senior wanted fighters of the Islamic Jihad, those fighters launched major attacks in Israel and in the West Bank, and were planning on further attacksÃ¢â‚¬Â.
‘During the attack, soldiers, uniformed and with army identification markings, surrounded a number of wanted men, some were armed. The soldiers conducted the full procedure for arresting a suspect, called on the wanted men to turn themselves in and fired a shot in the air, but despite the attempt to arrest them, the wanted men began fleeing.
The army also claimed that other armed group fired and hurled explosives and Molotov cocktails at the army, and that Ã¢â‚¬Å“in the course of the arrest, four [terrorists] were killed; a wanted activists and three of his aidesÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The fifthÃ‚Â youth, Ahmad Othman 17,Ã‚Â died later on of his wounds at an Israeli hospital, is not known of any involvement with the reistance; even the army did not point his involvement.
On Tuesday, a senior Israeli army source told Haaretz that the undercover Duvdevan soldiers invaded the camp in order to arrest a group of wanted fighters, primarily Abu Khaleel from the Islamic Jihad, and Ribhi Amara member of Hamas.
Amara had already left the courtyard some minutes before the army invaded it.
The army claimed that the had advance knowledge that the men were armed with guns, and the commander of the unit denied reports of confirmed kills, but stated that in one case one of the wounded was shot again, and killed, when the soldiers suspected that he is trying to draw a gun; the man was killed from a distance of ten meters.Ã‚Â
Five Palestinians killed in Tulkarem raid
George Rishmawi-IMEMC & Agencies, August 25, 2005
Five Palestinians were killed in an Israeli army raid in the West Bank city of Tulkarem overnight, one of them was an Islamic Jihad operative and the other four were civilians, Palestinian sources reported.
Israeli sources claimed that undercover Duvdevan unit entered Tulkarem as part of an ‘arrest operation’ targeting Islamic Jihad operatives.
Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades vowed a ‘painful revenge’ for the killing of the five Palestinians.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei condemned the raid, and the assassination, describing it as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“brutal crimeÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Qurei added that this attacks shows that Israeli is not interested in calm, and called on the international community to act against the Israeli violations.
Also, Qurei slammed the Israeli plans of settlement expansion in the West Bank, especially around Jerusalem, which Ã¢â‚¬Å“will not leave any chances for a viable Palestinian stateÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The Israeli intelligence service claims that one of the killed was involved in planning the bombing of the Stage nightclub in Tel Aviv.
The undercover Duvdevan squad is a special unit in the Israeli army for assassination.
According to Israeli sources, the Duvdevan unit entered a cafe where the claimed wanted men were. One of the soldiers fire one shot in the air and called on the wanted men to surrender, which broke a gun battle.Ã‚Â Four were killed at the spot, and the fifth died later of his wounds.
Palestinians identified the killed residents as Adel Abu Khaleel, 26, from the village of Atteel near Tulkarem, member of Al Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, Majdi Atteyah, 20, member of Al Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fateh, Mahmoud Ismail Hdeib, 18, and Anas Abu Zreinah, 16 years old.
A fifth resident, identified as Ahmad Othman 17, from Tulkarem refugee camp, died of his wounds at an Israeli hospital.
Israel handed over the security control over Tulkarem to the Palestinian Authority together with Jericho in March following the Sharm Al-Sheikh agreement in which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and declared cease-fire and Israel committed to quit five Palestinian cities.Ã‚Â Israel failed to hand over more cities.
This is the first assassination Israeli security forces carries out since the implementation of the disengagement plan started on August 15.