IDF denies B'Tselem allegation of cold-blooded killings near Jenin

Human rights group: Troops killed unarmed, wounded combatants in battle.

IDF Kabatiya 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF Kabatiya 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Based on testimony from Palestinians, the human rights organization B'Tselem has charged that IDF soldiers may have killed two Palestinian fugitives from the village of Yamun in cold blood last week. In a special report issued Monday, B'Tselem wrote that its investigation "indicates that Salim Abu al-Heijah and Mahmoud Abu Hassan were executed by soldiers while they lay wounded, unarmed and posed no risk to the soldiers." The army has denied the allegation, stating Tuesday that soldiers had acted in accordance with army rules. The alleged incident occurred on November 8 at 2 a.m. Members of the Kabala family said they had witnessed the deaths of the two men. They told B'Tselem that at 1:30 a.m. on November 8, two wounded men knocked on their door and said they were wanted by Israeli forces. Family members brought them into the house, wrapped them in blankets and gave them first-aid. Al-Heijah allegedly sat with the upper part of his body inside a storage room and his legs in the courtyard. Abu Hassan lay opposite Al-Heijah in the courtyard, leaning on a wall supporting the banister of a staircase leading to the house. Twenty minutes later, an IDF jeep drove up. Soldiers allegedly lobbed a stun grenade towards the house and called on the family to open the gates to the courtyard. After they did, three soldiers allegedly entered the house, stepping over Abu Hassan in the process, and went into the storeroom. After a minute or two, the witnesses said they heard two shots. Al-Heijah was killed. The witnesses said they then saw a gun barrel protruding from the storeroom, heard a shot and saw the bullet pierce Abu Hassan's body. "The fact that the soldiers did not shoot the Palestinians as soon as they entered the house, did not search the men nor tie their hands, strengthens the indication that the soldiers did not see themselves as being threatened," wrote B'Tselem. If the story is true, wrote B'Tselem, the killings cannot be condoned no matter how the army defines the action - as of a policing nature or a combat operation. According to the Army Spokesman, soldiers from the Maglan paratroop unit spotted armed men entering the house. The officer in charge asked the occupants of the house whether there were strangers in the house and they said no. He warned them that if they did not confirm that there were men inside, the soldiers would enter the house shooting. However, they continued to insist that it was empty. The soldiers then moved in and spotted two suspects hiding under blankets. They opened fire. According to the IDF statement, "the soldiers acted according to army rules for entering a house harboring armed men, which states that the soldier must shoot first."