- author, Lucy Williamson
- Role, BBC News Correspondent Al-Shuhada West Bank
Israel has been accused of attacking a group of Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank who, according to witnesses, had no links to armed groups and posed no threat.
seven men, their four brothersThey were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the morning of January 7 as they gathered around a bonfire beside a road passing through the village of al Shuhada, 10 kilometers from the city of Jenin.
The BBC spoke to relatives of the victims, witnesses who were in the area and a paramedic at the scene.
All of them provided evidence that they were not members of armed militant groups and that there were no conflicts with Israeli forces at that time and location.
no evidence of confrontation
Khalid Ahmed was the first paramedic to arrive on the morning of the incident and was convinced the men had done nothing wrong.
“One of them was wearing slippers and pajamas,” he told the BBC. “Don’t you think people who want to resist (the Israeli occupation) should at least wear proper shoes?”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) compared the attack to Military operation in Jenin refugee camp a few hours agoone of the Israeli soldiers died.
The IDF referred us to a statement issued at the time, which said that “during the operation, an aircraft struck a terrorist cell that was dropping explosives on troops operating in the area.”
IDF footage and nearby surveillance cameras showed no clear evidence of clashes with Palestinians in Shuhada at the time of the attack.
The four brothers, Alaa, Hazza, Ahmed and Rami Darwish, aged between 22 and 29, are Palestinian immigrants who returned from Jordan with their mother a few years ago.
they have Permit authorizing them to enter Israel Farm work is done every day. These licenses are often difficult to obtain and quickly withdrawn from those whom Israel considers to pose a security threat or to be associated with a security threat.
Three other men killed with them were relatives.
‘They are unarmed’
As verified by the BBC, the licenses for two of the brothers were issued in September 2023 and are valid for a few months. The border with Israel has been closed to Palestinian workers since Hamas attacks in October.
Khalid al Ahmad, a paramedic, said that after working in Jenin for 20 years, he was used to searching areas where such attacks occurred, looking for weapons or explosives, as a basic security routine.
“If I saw a weapon out there, I would tell you,” he said. “Honestly, they are civilians. Nothing to do with the resistance: No bullets, no weapons. And there was no Israeli presence at all. “
Palestinian armed groups, usually quick to claim responsibility for any member killed by Israeli forces, have remained silent on the seven men, with no statement describing any of them as “martyrs” for their cause.
At the funeral, their bodies were wrapped in the flags of Palestinian groups including Hamas. The bodies of people killed in Israeli attacks are often wrapped in flags of movements supported by friends or family, even if the deceased was not a supporter of those groups.
All relatives and neighbors told us that these people had no connection with militant groups, and the director of the main hospital in Jenin, Wissam Bakr, also told us that the bodies had been transported there that morning.
“They are not armed, they are not combatants,” he said. “usually, It’s clear whether someone is a combatant A member of one of the armed groups. These seven? “No, no, what is certain is that they are all civilians.”
The victims’ mother, Ibtesam Asous, saw their bodies at the hospital.
“They’re all dead,” he said. “I thought one of them would become a martyr, but I didn’t expect that all four would be killed. I was shocked when I saw them all killed.”
We demand an explanation from the Israeli army as to why this group was attacked.
A spokesman responded that soldiers had begun hunting “terrorists who murder Israeli citizens” and that the airstrikes were aimed at “Terrorist squad throwing explosives Attack forces operating in the area, putting them at risk.
Hours before the Shuhada air raid, Shai Germai, a 19-year-old Israeli border police officer, He died after his vehicle hit an explosive device during clashes with Palestinian militants in the countryside of Jenin.
The army convoy later pulled out of Jenin through Shuhada, where the Darwish brothers and three of their distant relatives had gathered near an all-night cafeteria serving farm workers and customers from a nearby market.
Night vision imagery provided by an Israel Defense Forces drone shows Explosion after slight flash This thermal mode may be equivalent to a gasoline pump when the vehicle is driven on the road. This video has no date or time stamp.
The military also provided similar footage of the air raid, but they were two videos edited together, and it was impossible to know how long they were separated by time.
We asked the IDF for clarification on the timing of the two incidents, but they responded that they would not provide any further comment or information.
Understanding timing is important to understanding whether the necessary circumstances have occurred to justify the use of deadly force under international law.
The U.N. human rights body late last year called the situation in the West Bank “alarming and urgent.”
“Israeli forces have used More and more military tactics and weapons its spokesman said in a statement in November.
He claimed that “the application of this law is governed by international human rights law, which prohibits the intentional use of lethal force unless strictly necessary to protect life”.
Ibtesam Asous, the men’s mother, said she has seen changes in the methods used by Israeli forces in the West Bank since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
“They’re performing the same as before,” he said. “The only thing that has changed is that before the army would shoot a person in the leg. But now things are bigger: now they bomb with rockets and kill as many people as they can.”
According to the United Nations, last year was the bloodiest on record in the West Bank: 492 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, 300 of them since the October Hamas attack, including 80 children.
Nearly all were hit with live ammunition.
Last year, 28 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed by Palestinians in the West Bank, including three Israelis, two of whom were soldiers, killed since the October attacks.
Palestinians have also carried out attacks inside Israel, including one earlier this week. One woman died and 17 others injured.
Two witnesses who were in the cafeteria that morning told us that the army convoy left Shuhada between 04:00 and 04:45 local time (02:00-02:45 GMT) before the airstrike. local population.
“soldiers they passed four times No one approaches them,” one said.
“When the vehicles were completely out of the village, they exploded. Young people sitting by the fire to keep warm were hit by rockets,” he described.
Another man told the BBC that about an hour passed between the time the army left the village and the launch of the airstrike at around 05:00, and that many people in the cafe, including him, had left the scene between the two incidents.
Khalid Ahmed, a Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic, remembered the Israeli army’s withdrawal from the countryside of Jenin in the early hours of the morning and said that when he was subsequently called to the village, “it was already five in the morning.” attack.
The director of Jenin Hospital confirmed that the body arrived at the hospital around 5:15 am.
Video from nearby cameras, some captured by cellphones of unknown origin, showed a car passing the same stretch of empty road 30 seconds before the airstrike, apparently without incident. There are no visible timestamps in the recording.
A group of people, the Darwish brothers and their relatives, can be seen standing or sitting around a campfire. Then there was an airstrike.
Their mother said some of the siblings had to go to work, while Haza went to Jenin Hospital for an early morning dialysis appointment.
He claimed he wanted to leave early because he was worried the military operation would block the roads.
The hospital’s renal department confirmed that Hazza Darweesh had a routine dialysis appointment at 7am that morning and showed us his name in the diary.
A video taken shortly after the airstrike by Yusuf Assous, the brothers’ uncle, showed bodies scattered on the ground.
“They are boys without weapons,” Youssef asserted. “If they had weapons, I would have seen them. only the chairs they sit on“.
“Ultimately, any Palestinian is a target; if you are armed, you are a target; if you are a civilian, you are a target.”
We referred all allegations contained in this report to an IDF spokesperson, who reiterated that the army had nothing more to add.
Ibtesam Asous visited the site of the attack for the first time this week; he said his other children had tried to stop him but he had to see it for himself.
“I want to come Imagine where each of them sitshe explained, pointing to different spots on the ground as traffic passed by.
“Allah is there; Ahmed, Rami and Hazza are here. I want to see exactly where my children are. It helps.”
Orsi Szoboszlay contributed to this article
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