Jerusalem24 – Israeli soldiers firing from inside an armored military vehicle shot at a group of unarmed civilians in Nablus in February, killing two and injuring three, an investigation by The Washington Post has found.
The US daily made use of 3D imaging and analysis to reconstruct the fatal incident, in which the soldiers fired a total of 14 shots within four seconds at a group taking shelter on a staircase between a clinic and a mosque as the army retreated from a brutal invasion of the city which killed a total of 11 Palestinians including one child and three senior citizens.
The Post reviewed 30 different videos captured in Nablus, including previously unpublished footage as well as a video shot by a soldier following the Wolf armored personnel carrier from which the shots were fired, in addition to collecting visual evidence from the scene and eyewitness testimony.
Civilians in the line of sight
The streets and markets in Nablus had been bustling with movement when the large-scale invasion began mid-morning on 22 February. Confrontations with residents as well as armed confrontations with Palestinian fighters erupted as the army infiltrated several areas in the city. Several Palestinians including a 72-year-old man had already been shot and killed across the city before the incident investigated by the Post occurred.
The sheltering group of civilians came under Israeli fire as the military had begun its retreat from the city around 12 PM. Video footage shows a military convoy driving down the street leading to the clinic and mosque while coming under a barrage of rocks thrown by youth along the road, as well as a man running alongside a military vehicle and extending his arm, before the shots are fired from the armored carrier towards the group of civilians.
By 3D-modelling the view from both the armored carrier’s window and its firing port, the Post was able to determine that the civilians huddling in the staircase were visible to the soldiers as they continued to fire – while their ostensible target, the man who had fled from the street down the staircase after extending his arm towards the vehicle, was not.
Palestinian gunfire unlikely, say audio experts
The Israeli army claims its soldiers responded to two shots fired at the convoy, presumably by the fleeing man. In the footage analyzed by the Post, two bangs can be heard at the beginning of the video. But two independent audio forensic experts found the bangs were either not gunshots, or likely to have been fired from inside the armored vehicle itself.
The Post was unable to verify if the fleeing man had been holding a gun. No eyewitnesses reported a gunman firing at the scene.
Brian Castner, a crisis researcher with Amnesty International, told the Post that while he could not make a “conclusive determination” about the shooting without further investigation, international human rights law dictates that force only be used in case of an imminent threat to life. Castner expressed doubt as to whether soldiers located inside an armored personnel carrier would have been under immediate threat.
In December 2021, the Israeli military changed its rules of engagement in the occupied West Bank, explicitly allowing its soldiers to shoot-to-kill Palestinians in the West Bank even if they are fleeing and presenting no danger.
No safe way home
16-year-old Mohammad Farid Shaaban and 61-year-old Abdel Hadi Abdel Aziz Ashqar were killed in the shooting by the clinic, while 36-year-old chauffeur Asaad Najjar, 22-year-old graduate Mohammed Samaaneh, and a vegetable seller who could not be reached by the Post were injured.
According to testimony collected by the Post, 16-year-old Mohammad had finished school and was unable to find a safe route home during the ongoing raid. He had taken shelter next to the clinic after asking his father to pick him up. 61-year-old Ashqar had come to pray at the mosque, while 22-year-old Samaaneh had come from an appointment at the clinic. 36-year-old Najjar had parked his car nearby while waiting for the military to fully retreat, and the vegetable seller had been working nearby.
At least five unarmed Palestinians – or “civilians”, as the Post refers to them – were shot and killed during the invasion, according to documentation collected by Jerusalem24. A further 102 were injured by live ammunition and other projectiles. 66-year-old Anan Shawkat Enab died from complications due to tear gas inhalation later in the day, bringing the death toll of the invasion to 11.
Israeli forces and settlers have now shot and killed 82 Palestinians including 16 children in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem in 2023.