Jerusalem24 – All eyes were – once again – on the city of Nablus last Tuesday morning, as another large-scale Israeli military invasion of the besieged city killed three Palestinian fighters and two unarmed men returning home from work.
Nablus has paid a steep price for an increase in armed activity around the city in recent months. 29 of the West Bank’s total 135 victims of Israeli army fire this year hailed from Nablus.
And while the city buried its dead, another, much smaller community some 25km southwest was also mourning another of its own.
Palestinian residents of the village of Nabi Saleh northwest of Ramallah awoke during the night to news of the invasion in Nablus. As reports of deaths began pouring in around 1AM, and popular armed group the Lions’ Den called for Palestinians to go confront the Israeli military, the youth of Nabi Saleh responded to the call and marched toward the Israeli military point positioned at the entrance of the village.
They began throwing stones, as is customary for unarmed youth during confrontations with the Israeli army. And, as has become increasingly commonplace in recent years as demonstrated by the increasing number of Palestinians shot and killed during unarmed confrontations (22 unarmed Palestinian protestors have been shot and killed in 2022), Israeli soldiers fired live bullets, hitting 19-year-old Qusai Tamimi in the chest.
“Very affected by recent events”
According to the head of the local council, the confrontations broke out at around 2:00AM. Qusai was shot shortly afterwards – his mother recalls hearing three or four shots being fired – and died almost immediately. The Ministry of Health announced his death at 2:42AM.
Qusai’s sister Malak told The New Arab the following day that her younger brother was passionate about technology and computers, although he had dropped out of school two years ago, and was always affectionate with his sisters.
He had been very affected by recent events in Nablus and Jenin, she said, compounded by his experience of life under constant military harassment as experienced by the 600 residents of the tiny village of Nabi Saleh.
Qusai is the sixth Tamimi to be killed by Israeli fire in his community and neighboring Deir Nidham in just over a decade. A very heavy toll and ongoing trauma for a tiny, tight-knit community, most of whose residents are members of the extended Tamimi family.
So how did the small village end up both the subject of international media attention and a constant target of the Israeli military?
“We want to be the ones who started it”
In 1977, members of the extremist group Gush Emunim founded the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish on the lands of Nabi Saleh and the nearby village of Deir Nidham. An Israeli military base sits at the entrance to the settlement, directly adjacent to the entrance to Nabi Saleh.
In 2008, settlers from Halamish began building pools to collect the water from Ein Al-Qaws, a freshwater spring sitting between the villages of Nabi Saleh and Deir Nidham and belonging the family of Bashir Tamimi. The settlers attacked any Palestinians who came to tend their crops nearby, say the residents.
A little over a year later, on 9 December 2009, the residents of Nabi Saleh began demonstrating against the continued Israeli encroachment on their lands as well as the military chokehold on the village.
Through the military repression that ensued, one family in particular has risen (or been pushed) to the forefront of the fight for Nabi Saleh: the family of Bassem and Nareman Tamimi, who have both been incarcerated for their political activism (a total of 13 times for Bassem) whose 21-year-old daughter Ahed has become an international fixture after videos of her confronting Israeli soldiers since a young age have gone viral on social media in the past several years.
Ahed was imprisoned for eight months in 2018 for slapping a soldier on the same day her 15-year-old cousin Mohammad Tamimi was shot in the head with a rubber bullet and severely injured (he was in a coma for four days, and part of his skull subsequently had to be removed). Mohammad was arrested by the Israeli military two months after he was shot, and made to sign a confession saying he had sustained his injury by falling off his bike.
These and other incidents garnered remarkable international attention, with outlets such as The Washington Post and even The New York Times devoting detailed features to the Tamimis’ activism and the story of Nabi Saleh, and one memorable NYT magazine cover reading: “If there is a third Intifada, we want to be the ones who started it”.As backlash for all of the international attention they garnered, the Tamimis have been vilified in the Israeli press and even by the government, with then-Deputy Minister Michael Oren suggesting in 2018 that the family may be in fact composed of “actors” given their children’s blonde hair and “westernized” clothes.
A long list of goodbyes
Though their political activism has never subsided, the community of Nabi Saleh decided to suspend the weekly marches in 2016 after the Israeli military started routinely using snipers and live ammunition against the protestors, leading to over 300 residents of the 600-strong village accumulating injuries while over 400 were arrested.
The suspension of the weekly marches has not led to an abatement of Israeli military raids or violence against the village, however, and Nabi Saleh – and the Tamimis – have registered more casualties in the six years since the end of the protests than during the seven years prior, of which Qusai is just the latest.
17-year-old Mohammad Tamimi was shot and killed by the Israeli military on 23 July 2021 when the Israeli military entered the village “for no apparent reason”, according to reporting by Haaretz at the time.
When the military jeep entered the village, local youth and children began to throw stones at it and the soldiers fired tear gas. Mohammad’s mother asked him to retrieve his 13-year-old brother Mahmoud from a neighbor’s house so he wouldn’t be affected by the gas, as he was recovering from eye surgery.
According to eyewitness testimony and video footage, the military jeep then stopped close to Mohammad, its door opening for a split second with a soldier firing one shot at the teenager. Mohammad tried to flee to a nearby house but was shot twice more, leaving “not a single internal organ intact”, according to the doctors who tried to save his life.
Mohammad has four surviving siblings, and is a cousin of Ahed’s. Ahed’s brother Mohammad was with him when he was killed; the two boys were close.
21-year-old Ezz Al-Din Abd Al-Hafeezh Tamimi was shot and killed on 6 June 2018 during confrontations between Palestinian residents throwing stones and the Israeli military. An Israeli army spokesperson told Middle East Eye at the time that Ezz Al-Din was shot after throwing a rock.
Eyewitnesses said Ezz Al-Din was hit at least twice, including by a bullet that him in the back of the neck, and was at least 45 meters away from the soldiers.
According to Bilal Tamimi, the army had raided his house and threatened to kill him numerous times in the previous months.
16-year-old Musaab Tamimi was shot and killed on 3 January 2018 – the first Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces that year. Musaab was from a branch of the Tamimi family living in Deir Nidham, the village separated from Nabi Saleh by the settlement of Halamish.
Musaab was shot in the neck during confrontations in which local youth threw stones and the Israeli military fired live ammunition.
The Israeli military claimed Musaab was armed when he was shot, but his family deny this and point out that had he been armed, the military would have seized the firearm and detained him after shooting him.
His family allege the soldiers “were out for blood” that day, as they forewent the traditional tear gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated bullets and only fired live ammunition during the confrontations. The military had also taken photographs of Musaab the previous day and threatened his parents as part of an announced crackdown on stone-throwing by local children.
Musaab’s father Firas told Middle East Eye in January 2018 that he believed his son had become the latest Tamimi to pay a price for the family’s long history of activism. “The Tamimis in Nabi Saleh are our relatives, through blood and through marriage,” Firas said. “We are twin villages. Our boys go to Nabi Saleh to protest, and their boys come here. We are one family. So what happens to them, happens to us.”
According to family members, a short while before Musaab’s killing, an Israeli captain threatened a group of locals by telling them: “The day will come when you wish you are not a Tamimi.”
28-year-old Rushdi Tamimi (Ahed Tamimi’s uncle) was shot with live ammunition in the stomach and thigh on 17 November 2012 during protests in Nabi Saleh against Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
He died in hospital two days later.
A video recorded by his sister Nareman (Ahed’s mother) shows Israeli soldiers preventing her and others from reaching Rushdi as he lay injured on the ground, with one soldier pointing his gun at Nareman.
Rushdi was a police officer, and photos taken before his funeral show him dressed in his uniform as he is prepared for burial.
28-year-old Mustafa Tamimi (a cousin of 17-year-old Mohammad who was shot and killed in 2021, and whose younger brother Mustafa is named after) was the first Tamimi to be killed in Nabi Saleh since the weekly protests began two years before to the day. He was killed on 9 December 2011 when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas cannister that struck him in the face from a few meters away.
An emotional eyewitness account by an activist recalls the shock of the protestors at the severity of Mustafa’s injury, and fruitless anger at not being allowed by the soldiers to access the taxi where Mustafa’s unconscious body was lying.
Mustafa underwent surgery, with doctors initially hoping they might even be able to save his eyesight, but he was pronounced dead soon afterwards.
Mustafa’s death made international headlines. A Palestinian protestor’s death was a rarer event then than now (in 2022 in the West Bank, 22 Palestinian protestors including 12 children have been shot and killed by Israeli forces during confrontations, according to documentation collected by Jerusalem24).
Mustafa’s cousin Manal Tamimi told The Guardian in an interview at the time: “We knew someone would be killed sooner or later, we just didn’t know who or when.”