Two Palestinians killed in West Bank

By
January 7, 2011 09:39

IDF mistakenly shoots 66-year-old Hebron man while searching for Hamas members that had been released from PA prison.

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Soldier patrols in Hebron

Soldier patrols in Hebron 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Two Palestinians were killed in the West Bank over the weekend, one of them in a mistaken shooting during an IDF arrest operation in Hebron.

The arrest raid took place early Friday morning when a force from the IDF’s elite Duvdevan Unit entered Hebron in search of five members of Hamas’s military wing in the city.

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During the operation, after the force arrested one of the suspected terrorists, they spotted another man in a different room in the house. The man apparently made a sudden move and the soldiers, fearing that he was reaching for a weapon, opened fire.

Palestinian security officials identified the dead man as 66-year-old Omar Qawasmeh, who lived in the same building but on a different floor from one of the suspected Hamas terrorists arrested during the raid.

Qawasmeh’s wife said that the soldiers opened fire at him while he was sleeping in his bed.

One of the men arrested was Wael Bitar, who assisted a Hamas terror cell that carried out a suicide bombing in 2008 in Dimona, in which one Israeli was killed and 10 others injured. In the years since, Bitar has been instrumental in attempts to perpetrate additional suicide attacks that were thwarted by the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

Bitar and the other Hamas operatives were also involved in a shooting attack in September, in which four Israelis were killed near Kiryat Arba.

The IDF Central Command launched an investigation into the shooting.

Bitar was one of six Hamas terrorists released from Palestinian prison on Thursday after they launched a hunger strike to protest their incarceration. They were freed following a series of high-level contacts between Hamas officials and Palestinian Authority officials, as well as an intervention by the emir of Qatar.

Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, expressed regret for the killing in Hebron and traveled there on Saturday to lead the IDF investigation into the incident.

On Saturday, a Palestinian man named Khaldoon Sammoudi was shot and killed at the Bekaot checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley after he ignored soldiers’ calls to stop. The soldiers later found a pipe bomb on his body.

According to eyewitnesses, Sammoudi got out of a taxi and approached the checkpoint while yelling “Allahu akbar.” In response, the soldiers opened fire at him.

This is the second incident in the past week where IDF soldiers have had to open fire at the Bekaot checkpoint.

Last Sunday, IDF soldiers shot and killed Muhammad Dharaghma, a 21-year-old Palestinian who arrived at the checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley, south of Beit She’an, and did not heed a soldier’s call to stop.

The Palestinian was unarmed, but IDF sources said that he was carrying a bottle in his hand and that the soldier later told his commanders that he felt threatened.

The IDF is investigating the shooting.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.


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