Announcement that two Palestinian teenagers from Awarta have been arrested for Itamar murders

The news was released yesterday — it had apparently been known among Israeli media circles, but was put under “gag orders” at the request of Israeli authorities: two Palestinian teenagers from the village of Awarta (near Nablus in the northern West Bank) have been arrested (on 5 and on 10 April) for the murders of five members of the Fogel family (Israeli Jews, including the couple and three of their children, one of them an infant), who were living in the nearby Itamar settlement.

Five other people were reportedly arrested as accessories to the crime.

The two teenagers are identified as being loyal to (if not actually belonging to) the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — meaning, most importantly, that they are NOT members of Hamas or any other Islamist group.

However, Israeli police and military sources have said that the two teenagers carried out this crime acting independently, on their own.

Israelis were almost uniformly convinced from the outset that the killers were Palestinian — based on previous experience, I was told.

There have been a number of deadly attacks in the past decade involving people from Awarta, from Itamar, and from the Israeli military forces.

The investigation took weeks, and involved the mass detention and collection of DNA samples of dozens and dozens of Palestinian residents of Awarta — including 100 women, at one point.

The DNA samples at the scene of the crime — which are being cited as part of the solid proof behind the just-announced arrests — should surely have indicated whether those who carried out the act were male or female (though it might not have clearly identified whether the perpetrators as Palestinian rather than any other ethnic group or race).

Continue reading Announcement that two Palestinian teenagers from Awarta have been arrested for Itamar murders

Dangerous murders of Israeli settler family in Itamar near Nablus, dangerous reprisals against Palestinians. But where is proof of Palestinian guilt?

Five members of an Israeli family — including both parents and an infant — living in the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar, not far from Nablus, were brutally murdered in their home on Friday night.

The bodies were discovered when their 12-year-old daughter returned home. Two boys (ages 2 and 6) may have survived, according to unclear Israeli media reports in English.

The northern West Bank was put under lock-down.

All top Israeli officials have called for condemnation of this heinous crime, and said it must be punished and revenged.

Revenge has been and is being carried out against Palestinians.

But, so far, little to no proof of any Palestinian involvement has emerged.

There are footprints, reportedly, leading from a point where the Itamar security system was apparently breached … to the Palestinian village of Awarta.

UPDATE: By March 16, no one — not even a Palestinian — had been charged with the murder, despite intensive Israeli investigations. Awarta is still under lock-down. Thai workers who live in Itamar were reportedly rounded up for interrogation, and there were strong rumors that one of them, who had worked for the family and who was owed 10,000 or 20,000 shekels, was suspected, but there are still no charges against anyone…. At least one Israeli report indicated that the house was still locked from the inside when the murders were discovered. Everybody who was asked and even those who were not asked had dutifully and also sincerely denounced the murders. But those who believe that it was an act of terror committed by Palestinians, well, they still believe it. (See comment below). And, reprisals by settlers against Palestinians are continuing…

UPDATE TWO: The IDF lifted the lock-down on Awarta on Wednesday, more than five days after it began. Reports now indicate that some 40 residents are still being detained.

UPDATE THREE: The Board of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel has issued a statement saying that it “is deeply disturbed that Israeli officials are once again accusing the international media of being biased against Israel. In the latest instance, officials attending a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday dredged up ancient and unfounded conspiracy theories about an 11-year-old case [the death of Muhammad al-Durra, killed while crouching beside his father beside a concrete block in a hail of gunfire in Gaza] and without providing any evidence, tried to equate it to coverage of the weekend knife attack in Itamar. We strongly urge Israeli officials to refrain from making unsubstantiated blanket statements against the international media — a diverse group of hundreds of journalists from around the world — and encourage parliament to seek out more credible witnesses in the future”…

The FPA statement is apparently a reference to remarks made at a Knesset committee on (Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs) this week by Danny Seaman, who served for ten years as head of the Israeli Government Press Office and who is now the Deputy Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Information. The Knesset Committee Chairperson, Danny Danon of Likud, reportedly said — according to an account apparently compiled by the Committee spokesperson — that a court battle concerning the film footage of the Gaza gunbattle between the IDF and Palestinian policemen, pursued by French Jewish businessman Philippe Karsenty (now running for the French Parliament, who was present and who was one of those addressing the Knesset hearing this week) “succeeded in proving provocation and conspiracy by foreign journalists. ‘Our enemies have no problem using unacceptable and dishonest means to attack us, so that cases like this where it is possible to reveal the truth are very important for the battle over the legitimacy of the State of Israel’. Danny Seaman, who said he became convinced after his own lengthy investigation that the video footage of the shoot-out in Gaza had been at least in part staged, and who has previously spoken publicly about this in various fora for several years, told the Knesset Committee that he now also believes “there is a direct link between the position taken by the French media on the Muhammad al-Durrah incident that seeks to represent Israel as murderers of children, and their failure to cover the terrible massacre in Itamar”.

From here, it is hard to see that there was any lack of coverage of the murders of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar (much less that this is due to French television’s report on the death of Muhammad al-Durra — though Karsenty has even questioned whether or not the Palestinian child’s death was faked as well). However, it is true that the top news worldwide in the past week has been the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, followed by continuing events in Libya and Bahrain.

Meanwhile, no Israeli government official has yet said explicitly that Palestinians committed the murders in Itamar, either, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the Palestinian Authority leadership must explicitly condemn the killings — and must also end what he said was a “campaign of incitement” against Israel…

Continue reading Dangerous murders of Israeli settler family in Itamar near Nablus, dangerous reprisals against Palestinians. But where is proof of Palestinian guilt?

Yesh Din demands investigation into IDF killing of two Palestinian teenagers — 5 months ago

Human rights group Yesh Din asked the Israeli High Court of Justice today to order the IDF Military Attorney-General to open an investigation into the killing of Mohammed Faisal Mahmoud Qawariq and Salah Mohammed Kamal Qawariq, two Palestinian 19-year old teens, who were cousins, shot to death by IDF forces five months ago while working in their families’ fields, during the plowing season, near the West Bank village of Awarta.

The two victims were initially accused, by reports based on statements from the Army of disguising themselves as farmers, and using a pitchfork and a glass bottle to try to attack IDF forces who had stopped them.

They were akilled by ten bullets fired by IDF soldiers (seven hitting one young man and three hitting the other), “in circumstances which raise serious suspicion of a grave criminal offence”, according to Yesh Din.

A medical post-mortem examination conducted at Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus reportedly found that the IDF bullets had been fired “at very close range”.

Yesh Din attorneys Michael Sfard, Emily Schaeffer and Ido Tamari wrote in the petition that: “The details of the incident were not clarified, and there’s a risk they will never be clarified, as long as the Military Attorney-General continues to refrain from deciding on the matter … Refraining from opening a criminal investigation five months after the incident is scandalous and will damage any attempt to conduct an effective and thorough investigation”. It also opens the possibility that charges of war crimes can be brought in other countries, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, against the IDF soldiers involved, according to the Yesh Din legal team.

Even the IDF had admitted that the circumstances remain unclear, the Yesh Din lawyers noted.

The petition, filed on behalf of the families of the deceased young men, also said that the military’s failure to open an investigation, to date, is a dangerous one “which demonstrates to every IDF soldier taking part in security activities in the West Bank that there’s no need to investigate incidents which result in Palestinian deaths”.

The petition argued that “in any case of death of civilians by soldiers’ gunfire, it is mandatory to conduct a professional, immediate, independent and effective investigation. This was not done in this case”.

As a result, the Yesh Din petition stated, the Army’s inaction “conveys a message of contempt for the lives of Palestinian civilians”, and “the Petitioners feel very aggrieved by the small amount of protection the military advocacy grants completely innocent civilians hurt by the illegal use of arms in the course of a clearly civilian situation”.