Nablus: Robbers impersonate IDF troops

Gang has targeted four Palestinian families in the West Bank in the last week.

Zaher Hamouz awoke at 1:30 a.m. to the sound of a loud knock at his front door. He looked out the window and saw two IDF soldiers. Or so he thought. The masked gunmen, who were dressed in full IDF military gear, tied him up and emptied his house, making Hamouz the fourth victim in the past week of a gang of robbers taking advantage of the conflict here to break into homes. Hamouz, 44, who works at a bank, said the men who broke into his house early Saturday spoke in heavily-accented Hebrew, mixed with broken Arabic, and appeared to be talking into two-way radios as they demanded to enter his home. The "soldiers" said they had information there was a wanted man inside. When Hamouz finally let them in, the men blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back, doing the same to his 12-year-old son, Ahmad, Hamouz said. Then they forced his wife, Hind al-Masri, 35, to help them locate valuables in the home. Al-Masri said she became suspicious when one of the men began reading an Arabic newspaper lying around the house. "I said 'How to do you know how to read Arabic but not speak?"' she said. "And then he aimed his gun at me and said, 'Shut up.' That's when I knew they weren't Israelis - I knew they were thieves." Al-Masri said the men eventually took off with around NIS 1,000 shekels and a piece of jewelry. When the family went to file a complaint with police, they discovered they were not alone. "This has happened three times before, that people come in Israeli uniforms and say they are Israeli," said Said Abu Ali, the governor of Nablus. "It is a disgrace that something like this happens here in a difficult time for Nablus. The Palestinian people need to help each other." Police were investigating the cases and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice, he said. As of yet, though, there were no direct leads to the thieves' identities, and no idea how they got hold of Israeli military uniforms. The Israeli army said it had no knowledge of the cases. Al Masri said she worried news of the robbers antics would lead many to resist Israeli troops in the future, which could lead to violence. "How can you know if it is Israelis or thieves? What if real Israelis come and we do not let them in?" she said. "We don't know who the soldiers are and who aren't. It is a problem."