Israel kills 11 in daytime raid on Nablus

Palestine 1
Palestinians mourn during a funeral for 10 people killed during an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Nablus on 22 February. Nidal EshtayehXinhua News Agency

Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians, including a boy and at least two men over the age of 60, during a daytime raid in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday.

More than 100 others were injured, several of them critically, the vast majority by live ammunition, suggesting a further loosening of Israel’s already permissive open fire regulations.

 

Israeli forces stormed Nablus’ bustling downtown in the mid-morning and besieged a home in which three Palestinian resistance activists were killed, according to media reports.

A military correspondent for Israel’s Channel 13 news said that occupation forces applied the “pressure cooker” procedure, a form of extrajudicial execution.

Under that procedure, occupation forces fire progressively more powerful weapons at the targeted building in an effort to force those inside to surrender. If they refuse to do so, the occupation forces demolish the building, killing all those inside.

Video shows smoke rising from the besieged home in Nablus on Wednesday after it was hit by anti-tank missiles:

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Israel released body cam footage recorded during the raid, showing its forces targeting and blowing up the home:

Israeli media reported that the military aimed to arrest three Palestinians “involved in the planning of shooting attacks” in the future and the shooting death of a soldier near a settlement last October.

The three reportedly targeted men – Muhammad Abdalghani Abdalfattah, 23, Walid Dakhil, 26 and Hussam Isleem, 24 – were killed, along with Adnan Saba Baara, 72, Muhammad Khalid Anbusi, 25, Tamer Nimer Minawi, 33, Musab Munir Muhammad Uweis, 26, Abdelaziz Ashqar, 65, Muhammad Farid Muhammad Haj Ahmad, 16 and Yasir Jamil Abdalwahab Qanir, 23.

Palestinian media outlets reported late Wednesday that an older man died from his injuries after inhaling tear gas during the raid.

Civilians killed

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said that at least three of those killed were civilians, including the teenager and Abdelaziz Ashqar, who were shot in front of a medical clinic.

PCHR said that Baara was “hit by no less than eight live bullets in the neck, mouth, head and chest” while he was in Nablus’ vegetable market, where the Israeli raid began, and where the majority of civilian injuries occurred.

The rights group said that Isleem was killed as a result of the tank fire against the besieged home and that Abdelfattah “was hit by more than 20 live bullets in different parts of the body.”

Isleem was reportedly a leader with the Lions Den, a group based in Nablus that engaged in armed resistance against the occupation.

The rights group said that four of those killed were shot during armed battle with occupation forces.

 

The UK charity Medical Aid for Palestinians stated that Israeli occupation forces prevented paramedics from evacuating the injured. The group said that three Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances were damaged during the raid.

 

Security camera footage shows three people who appear unarmed running along a sidewalk before coming under fire, with one of the men dropping to the ground as eyewitnesses scream in horror:

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Another video recorded from a different angle appears to show the same man lying motionless on the ground with another person lying without moving nearby:

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Footage shows an Israeli military jeep ramming into a crowd of Palestinians who were confronting the raiding forces:

Another video shows an elderly man lying motionless on the ground after he was apparently shot and occupation forces left him to bleed without rendering aid:

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Israel’s deadly raid in Nablus on Wednesday is the third major incursion in a West Bank city this year in which several Palestinians were killed.

Five Palestinian fighters were killed in Jericho earlier this month when Israeli forces raided a safehouse following an attempted shooting attack at a restaurant frequented by settlers. Nine Palestinians were killed during a raid in Jenin refugee camp in late January; a 10th person died from his injuries days later.

Sixty-one Palestinians were killed by Israeli police, soldiers and settlers so far this year, or died from injuries sustained in previous years.

During the same period, 12 people were killed by Palestinians in Israel or in West Bank settlements in the context of the occupation, or died from injuries sustained in previous years. Among them are seven people, including a 14-year-old boy and a Ukrainian national, who died in a shooting attack on a Jerusalem settlement one day after the bloodbath in Jenin.

“Surge in violence”

Tor Wennesland, the UN’s Middle East envoy, warned of a “surge in violence” during his briefing to the Security Council on Monday.

He highlighted “a significant number of Palestinian casualties” during Israeli raids in Area A of the West Bank – areas supposedly under Palestinian Authority control.

Even worse violence is likely to come as the Israeli military is “preparing for retaliatory attacks,” according to the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

The spokesperson for Hamas’ military wing stated that “the resistance forces in the Gaza Strip are monitoring the crimes of the enemy and their patience is running out.”

The raid in Nablus comes days after the US thwarted a Security Council vote on settlements in the West Bank sought by the Palestinian Authority after Israel announced that it would legalize several outposts and approve 10,000 new settlement housing units.

The Security Council president instead issued a symbolic statement expressing “deep concern” over the Israeli announcement, using language similar to that of the US State Department by emphasizing peace and security while avoiding any mention of the occupation or Palestinian rights.

Israel reportedly agreed to suspend “unilateral actions in the West Bank, including new announcements on settlement building for several months,” government officials told the news publication Axios.

In addition to suspending home demolitions and evictions, Israel reportedly “agreed to decrease the number of Israeli military raids in Palestinian cities,” Axios added.

The Palestinian Authority agreed to implement a US plan to restore control in Jenin and Nablus, which have seen a resurgence in armed resistance over the past year, and to “start talks on resuming security coordination with Israel,” according to Axios.

Such reports feed widespread suspicions among Palestinians that the Palestinian Authority is directly complicit in Israeli attacks like the one in Nablus.

On Monday, Axios reported that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been maintaining a high-level “secret backchannel” despite Abbas’ announcement last month that he would suspend “security coordination” with Israel.

Just before Netanyahu returned to office last month as the head of the most openly far-right government in Israel’s history, Ramallah “passed a message to Netanyahu’s office through the Biden administration about the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to work with the new prime minister,” according to Axios.

Deliberate escalation?

Israeli leaders appear to be aware that the pretexts for their deadly raids are hollow and that attacks like the one in Nablus only escalate violence and make Israelis less safe.

Following Wednesday’s assault on Nablus, Israeli authorities were reportedly bracing “for possible ripple effects from the operation such as revenge terrorist attacks in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the interior or rocket fire from the Gaza Strip,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

According to some close observers, the new far-right government in Tel Aviv may be deliberately seeking a violent escalation to provide a pretext to implement its aims to formally annex West Bank land and further consolidate its colonial, apartheid rule.

 

A deliberate escalation for strategic gain is hardly without precedent.

Last August, Israel launched an unprovoked attack on Gaza, costing dozens of Palestinian lives over three days.

Israel’s prime minister and defense minister attempted to justify the surprise attack by claiming the strikes were “aimed at removing a concrete threat to the citizens of the State of Israel.”

But Israel had not “substantiated or proven what the threat was,” as Omar Shakir, a program director with Human Rights Watch, told Jewish Currents after a ceasefire was declared.

Likewise, Israel did not specify what imminent threat necessitated the daytime raid in Jenin last month.

A group of UN experts said at the time that the casualties in Jenin could have been avoided.

“None of this violence would occur if Israel were to end its illegal, half-century old occupation immediately and unconditionally as required by international law,” they said.

On Wednesday, António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said that the situation “is at its most combustible in years,” pointing to impending forced transfer of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for settlers and threats to the fragile status quo at holy sites in the city.

“It radiates instability across the region and beyond,” he added.

The European Union meanwhile stated that it “deplores the death of civilians” and expressed deep alarm over “the spiraling violence in the West Bank,” while obscuring its root causes.

Likewise, the US expressed concern that the raid could set back its efforts to restore calm but made no mention of how occupation violence is perpetuated by the minimum of $3.8 billion in military aid provided by Washington to Tel Aviv each year.

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.

Ali Abunimah contributed analysis.

Originally published in Electronic Intifada

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