Israel arrests siblings of alleged settlement shooter

Israel is implementing collective punishment against the family of a Palestinian suspected of opening fire in a settlement industrial plant on Sunday, killing two Israelis and seriously injuring a third.

Occupation forces raided the home of the suspected assailant, Ashraf Walid Naawla, 23, who remains at large, in the Shweika village of the northern West Bank early Monday.

Army engineers reportedly measured the home in preparation for demolishing it and interrogated Naawla’s family members.

The Israeli military published a video of the raid on Shweika village:

Since late 2015 Israel has accelerated the demolitions of the family residences of Palestinians alleged to have attacked Israelis, a form of collective punishment Israel never applies to Jewish perpetrators.

Such collective punishment measures violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international laws and thus are war crimes.

Siblings arrested

Naawla’s brother and sister were detained during the raid, along with several other village residents, Israeli media reported.

The Israeli daily Haaretz stated that Naawla’s detained sister is a lecturer at An-Najah National University in Nablus, where she resides with her husband.

“According to Palestinian sources, neither the brother, arrested Sunday, nor the sister have any information related to the attack, but the arrests serve to pressure the assailant to reveal himself,” Haaretz added.

Israel habitually takes Palestinians as hostages in order to pressure wanted relatives to turn themselves in – a war crime under international law.

Meanwhile hundreds of Palestinians were prevented from entering the Barkan Industrial Zone, the site of Sunday’s shooting attack, located near Ariel settlement, as they arrived for work on Monday.

Israeli forces subjected Palestinian workers to intensive searches at the entrances to Barkan factories, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

Naawla was reportedly an employee at the plant where he allegedly waged the shooting on Sunday. The two Israelis killed in the attack – Ziv Hajbi, 35, and Kim Yehezkel-Levengrond, 29 – were said to be Naawla’s coworkers at a recycling plant where the alleged gunman worked as an electrician.

The attack brings to 11 the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians so far this year. Around 240 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and armed civilians during the same period.

Settlement industrial zone

The Barkan Industrial Zone is built on land confiscated from Palestinians. It is one of approximately 20 Israeli-run industrial zones in the occupied West Bank where companies can move to avoid environmental regulations and pay Palestinians less than Israeli minimum wage, as Israeli labor laws are not enforced for Palestinian workers in the settlements.

A 2016 report by Human Rights Watch, in which the group calls on corporations to end their business activities in the settlements, exposes the exploitation of Palestinian laborers dependent on Israeli occupation authorities for work permits, making it virtually impossible for them to challenge their employment conditions.

Yet Palestinians in the West Bank have few options but to work in the settlements as Israeli restrictions hamper Palestinian economic activity causing annual losses estimated by the World Bank at more than $3.4 billion – more than a third of Palestinian gross domestic product.

Human Rights Watch says the reality belies claims that settlement plants like Barkan are models of “coexistence” that build “bridges to peace,” such as those made by David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, following the shooting attack.

“The Barkan Industrial Zone has been a model of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence since 1982, with thousands working and prospering together,” Friedman tweeted.

“Today a terrorist shattered that harmony by brutally murdering two Israelis at work. Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims.”

Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin said, “This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians coexisting peacefully.”

Meanwhile Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “the Israeli military and security forces are carrying out a widespread manhunt to track down the evil terrorist who carried out the terror attack in Barkan. It’s a matter of time until we get our hands on him.”

Israeli communications minister Ayoub Kara repeated his call for the death penalty against Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis. “I’m sorry that I’ve been trying for years to persuade the Knesset and the government to advance a law to allow the death sentence for terrorists, but I have not succeeded,” he said.

Despite the absence of a formal death penalty, Israel frequently and systematically carries out extrajudicial executions of Palestinians who are suspected of acts of violence.

After visiting the family of Yehezkel-Levengrond, one of the Israelis killed in the shooting, Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett reiterated his call to shoot Palestinians launching balloons from Gaza, even if they are children.

“Unequivocally I say that just as in Lebanon and Syria, those who cross the fence are shot,” Bennett said. “They are not 12-year-old children – they are terrorists. Those who launch balloons from Gaza must be shot. If we do not shoot them, they will multiply. We must put an end to it.”

Gaza airstrike

An Israeli warplane fired a missile at a group of Palestinians east of Rafah in southern Gaza on Sunday. The military claimed it targeted a group who had launched incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel.

Thousands of Palestinians protested along Gaza’s northern boundary on Monday as part of the ongoing Great March of Return demonstrations.

Gaza’s health ministry reported 29 injuries during Monday’s protests, including 11 by live fire.

Palestinian protesters confront Israeli forces during a demonstration against the blockade on Gaza along the Israel-Gaza maritime boundary, 8 October.

Dawoud Abo Alkas APA images

The ministry also stated that Israeli forces targeted a naval paramedic crew, dispatched for the first time on Monday, as well as a Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulance, “threatening the lives of medical crews with direct fire.”

Three paramedics are among the more than 150 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return protests, launched six months ago.

More than 30 of those slain were children, and 13 were students enrolled in schools administered by the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness stated on Sunday.

“UNRWA deplores the loss of life and the devastating impact that the deaths and injuries have on individuals and families,” Gunness said.

“The latest violence inflicts further pain and suffering on an already traumatized Palestine refugee population that has endured occupation, over a decade of blockade, and recurrent hostilities.”

Gunness added that “We are witnessing an extreme phase in Gaza, as living conditions – already intolerable – continue deteriorating. The sense of hope for its roughly two million people, 70 percent of whom are refugees, is receding.”

Israeli authorities attempted to raid an UNRWA clinic in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday, days after the city’s mayor said that he would close the agency’s institutions.

Long maligned by the Israeli government, UNRWA has faced an unprecedented financial crisis this year after the US, once its largest donor, slashed $300 million in aid to the agency which provides health and education services to 5.4 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.