Jerusalem24 – The Israeli military killed two Palestinian men during a military raid on Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the occupied West Bank last Saturday at dawn, which the Ministry of Health identified as 32-year-old Saeed Jihad Shaker Misheh and 19-year-old Wasim Adnan Yousef Al-Araj.
Misheh and Al-Araj were two of eight Palestinians, including a 66-year-old man, shot and killed by the Israeli military over four days in the occupied West Bank last week, while Israeli airstrikes and rockets in Gaza and Israel killed 35 Palestinians over the same time period.
The Israeli military issued a statement on Saturday morning saying “two gunmen were killed” when the army used “riot dispersal measures and live ammunition” after “explosives were thrown and gunmen shot at our forces” in Nablus.
But eyewitnesses and a journalist covering the events at the scene say neither of the men were armed; that there were in fact no armed men in the vicinity; and that the army was aware of this fact when it killed both men.
“They shot at everything”
Three other Palestinians were wounded during the raid, including a 50-year-old woman who was shot three times in the abdomen and thigh while standing inside her own home.
Journalist Jamal Rayyan, who was present at the scene, explains that when an undercover Israeli unit which had gone first to infiltrate the camp was found out by the residents, the unit began “firing at everything” including the homes, injuring the woman.
“They were shooting like crazy,” Rayyan tells Jerusalem24.
Over the course of the raid, the army fired a total of three anti-tank “Energa” missiles at a house in the camp, according to residents, before sending in military dogs and entering the house. The army then detonated explosives they later stated they had found at the scene, causing the house to burn down.
The army admitted to Israeli media in an initial statement that it had failed to arrest the targets of the raid and house siege in Balata, but made no mention of the failed arrests in its latter statement.
“They weren’t involved”
In a statement, armed Palestinian group the Al-Quds Brigades–Balata confirmed its fighters engaged in armed confrontations with a contingent of Israeli special forces that morning in the camp.
Rayyan says that the undercover forces infiltrated the camp in vehicles with Palestinian license plates around 8.30 AM. Some were plain clothes and others a military uniform. When Palestinian youth from the camp quickly identified them, the soldiers immediately began shooting and Palestinian fighters shot back soon afterwards. “Moments later” the army “surrounded the area from all directions”, says Rayyan.
“I took a position where I could cover the raid and stay safe as well, wearing my press uniform and vest,” he recounts. “A young guy was standing in front of me. The other one, Wasim, was standing opposite us on the other side of the alleyway.”
“There weren’t any fighters, Israeli soldiers, or even youth with stones where we stood,” he reiterates. “It was a safe space.”
Rayyan says that when they were shot at, they were “directly and deliberately targeted”: “The live bullets were flying above me and next to me, on both sides.”
Both men were then killed in front of Rayyan, “without them being involved”.
“Misheh was shot in the head,” Rayyan recalls. “Blood all over him. I documented the scene even though I was being shot at too. Al-Araj was shot seconds after Misheh. He jumped at the sound of bullets and wanted to run away, but they shot and killed him too.”
An eyewitness who tried to move the bodies of Misheh and Al-Araj told Quds News that soldiers did not stop shooting for a second while trying to move the bodies, “It was really hard, they wanted to prevent us from taking their bodies.”
“I don’t remember ever stuttering on air”
Rayyan insists that if there was no armed activity in their specific area, the Israeli army would have known this. “But they chose to kill both men.”
He says he had “never witnessed such scenes” in his field of work before.
“I’ve spent many years working as a journalist,” he says. “I don’t remember ever stuttering on air. I did yesterday.”
“The men’s brains scattered on me, on my press vest, on my gear. I don’t think I’ll ever get past that scene. I don’t think I can find the words to express my feelings.”
Rayyan has come under Israeli fire as a journalist in the field numerous times, and has been injured 12 times since 2018.
“They lived and died together”
Al-Araj and Misheh were close friends, according to their families. Both men’s fathers are also close.
Misheh’s father Jihad told Quds News Network: “They lived together and died together. We were one family.”
Al-Araj was also close to his siblings, according to an interview a brothers gave to Palestine TV. Saeed and another brother would always go to bed and wake up at the same time before heading to their jobs, the brother said. “He was on his way to work before the army stormed the camp. He used to always take a pot of coffee with him. The would drink it together and then go to work. But this time the Israeli army decided something else.”
Al-Araj’s mother said to Palestine TV that the last thing her son told her before leaving the house that morning was to take care of his brothers.
“This morning I lost my heart,” she cried. “Saeed was my dearest.”
Heavy death toll in the West Bank
As Israeli airstrikes were resuming in Gaza on Thursday morning, the residents of the Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem in the occupied West Bank awoke to their own scenes of devastation and mourning, after an overnight army raid killed a 66-year-old Palestinian man.
Israeli soldiers shot Ghazi Youssef Mustafa Shehab with live ammunition in the lower back during the raid, and he succumbed to abdominal injuries around 12 hours later.
Elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, a father-of-three succumbed on Thursday morning to the wounds he sustained after he was shot by Israeli soldiers during a military raid in the town of Qabatiya south of Jenin the day before – which had killed another two Palestinians.
According to Fawaz Hamad, head of Al-Razi Hospital in Jenin, 30-year-old Aws Kmail was hospitalized “in critical condition” after being shot with live ammunition in the chest and abdomen, but after 24 hours, “all efforts to save his life were unsuccessful.”
The other two Palestinian youths killed in Wednesday’s raid on Qabatiya were identified as 18-year-old Ahmad Jamal Assaf and 24-year-old Rani Walid Qatnat.
On Saturday evening, hours after Misheh and Al-Araj’s funerals, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 33-year-old Ahmad Tayseer Atatreh at Al-Rayhan military checkpoint south of Jenin. The army said Atatreh attempted to stab a soldier, but have released no further details or security footage of the incident.
According to paramedic Taher Sanouri, the army prevented the ambulance crew from reaching Atatreh for over 20 minutes, and he was already deceased once they were allowed to examine him. Sanouri counted seven bullets in the abdominal area and two in the arm.
Atatreh’s family still haven’t received any information about the exact circumstances of his death.
“All we know that he arrived to the checkpoint by a bicycle,” Atatreh’s father Mohammad told Jerusalem24. Mohammad said his son used the bicycle for deliveries.
“We don’t know anything else, we just saw our son dead.”
Less than 12 hours after Atatreh was killed, 22-year-old Saleh Mohammad Sabra was shot and killed by the Israeli army during an Israeli military raid on Askar refugee camp in Nablus in the early hours of Sunday morning. The Red Crescent director in Nablus, Ahmad Jibril, said that Sabra was shot with live ammunition in the chest.
Confrontations erupted between Palestinian youth in the camp and the Israeli army when the army raided the family home of slain Palestinian fighter Abdel Fattah Hussein Kharousheh, who killed two Israeli settlers in a shooting attack in Huwara on 26 February, and took measures in preparation for its punitive demolition.
Kharousheh was one of six Palestinians shot and killed by the Israeli army during a massive invasion of the city of Jenin and its refugee camp on 7 March.
Shaden Hazeem and Noelle Mafarjeh contributed additional reporting to this article.