In reprisal for recent attacks on Israeli settlers in the West Bank that were supported — and claimed, sort of — by Hamas, and certainly also for recent rocket attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza, Israeli troops shot and killed a 38-year-old Hamas operative in the Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern West Bank near Tulkarem overnight.
This should stir things up significantly.
Palestinian medical sources say that the man, Iyad Shalabayeh, was killed by 3 bullets shot at close range while he was still sleeping, or in his bed, or in his bedroom. His family was reportedly away visiting relatives in Jenin.
The Associated Press has just reported that “The man’s brother, Moetasim Abu Shilbaya, says troops burst into his house and killed him in his bedroom. He says his brother was a Hamas political activist, not an armed militant”.
Palestinian Authority security has carried out a massive arrest campaign of Hamas operatives in the West Bank — reports indicate that between 300 and 600 Hamas supporters are now detained — since the drive-by shooting of four Israeli settlers near Hebron a few weeks ago [CORRECTED: on 31 August, not on 1 September as I originally wrote, which was another shooting attack on Israeli settlers in the West Bank, east of Ramallah].
This Israeli raid overnight culminated in what looks a lot like a targetted killing. B’Tselem now says it is checking…
Salam Fayyad has now reportedly called on the international community to intervene.
The Israeli military were reported to have made several statements indicating that the victim was “wanted”, that they had intended to arrest him, but that he attempted to flee.
UPDATE TWO: Ma’an later reported that a B’Tselem field worker, Eid As-Sa’di, who had visited the scene, said that the Israeli military statements were “implausible”. According to the Ma’an story, “As-Sa’di said ‘it would have been possible to arrest him, or just as easily to injure him’. The rights worker said that the room where Iyad was shot was no more than three meters by three meters, and expressed skepticism over the report that the known Hamas leader had come running at troops, that soldiers had had time to warn him to stop, and then shoot. As-Sa’di said that the investigation by B’Tselem was ongoing”. This is reported here.
In late December, in and around Nablus, Israeli forces carried out similar killings, and made similar statements about shooting because they believed they were in danger, or because they believed the suspect was fleeing. Then, the Israeli forces were operating in pursuit of those who might have shot an Israeli settler driving between settlements in the Nablus area.
The AP reported this morning that “The [Israeli] military says soldiers were trying to arrest Iyad Abu Shilbaya early Friday in the town of Tulkarem when he ran at them, ignoring orders to halt. The military says troops feared he had a weapon and shot him”. This report can be read in full here.
YNet is calling the victim a former senior Hamas operative, and adds that the IDF raid started at 2am, and that 12 other persons were detained in the operation. According to this report, Israeli sources say that Shilbayeh — who “spent several years in Israeli prisons and was wanted for questioning” — suddenly “began running towards the soldiers in a menacing manner”. Palestinian sources, however, report that Israeli troops “arrived at Shilbayeh’s house and grabbed his brother, Muhammad, to use as a human shield. The force, said the brother, blew up the bedroom door and proceeded to shoot Shilbayeh three times – once in the neck and twice in the chest, while he was in bed. His body was transferred to the Palestinian District Coordination Office several hours later”.
Ma’an News Agency is reporting that “Accounts from family members say Shelbaya’s brother Mohammed was abducted by soldiers earlier in the morning, and forced to show officers the way to Iyad’s home. Once at the home, witnesses said soldiers placed explosives at the main door, destroying the entry way and entering the home. Several soldiers were then described entering the home, at which point three gunshots were heard. Medics confirmed three shots killed the man, one in the neck and two in the chest … Mohammed told Ma’an that he heard his brother Iyad calling his bedroom when the soldiers entered the home, asking ‘Who is it? Who is it? Who is it’?” The Ma’an report is posted here.
This YNet report added that in the southern West Bank, Palestinians say that “IDF troops have found a new way of ensuring cars stop for inspection. According to Palestinian sources, the last few days have seen soldiers stationed in the sector between the Palestinian villages of Dura and Dahariya throw stun grenades at the road in order to stop Palestinian vehicles for inspection. The latest incident, a Palestinian driver told Ynet, occurred on Wednesday night. The man said he was driving towards Dahariya around 10 pm, when an explosion happened just ahead of his car. ‘At least one stun grenade exploded just ahead of me, and then several soldiers came out from one of the orchards and told me to get out of the car’. The troops, he said, asked him to disrobe, ‘which was humiliating. But I am not the only one to be harassed like that. It is my understanding that his has been going on for at least three days.” This YNet report can be read in full here .
In addition to operations related to the 1 September drive-by shooting of four Israeli settlers, there have also been anti-drug operations reported recently in the southern West Bank near Dhahariya — where there is no Wall, and where the “border” between the West Bank and Israel is much more porous than in the north, or than around the Jerusalem area.
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes were carried out on targets in Gaza overnight as well, and an IDF statement reportedly indicated that the “attack is in response to the nine projectiles fired into Israeli territory over the last 24 hours … In its statement, the Israeli military said it “holds Hamas solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip” … At the beginning of the week, Israeli forces around the Gaza perimeter also fired on three men who — it later turned out — were tending their fields and flocks, and nearly 700 meters away from the perimeter where the IDF has declared a 300-meter no-go zone in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead [which ended in January 2009]. The IDF later admitted it had made an error.