Palestinians accuse Israeli army of 'shoot to kill' policy after five die in the West Bank

Raed Naasan was shot and wounded in the chest and stomach while trying to hide behind a building in his village, Al Mughayyir, on November 29, 2022. The Israeli Army claimed that he tried to throw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers.
Raed Naasan was shot and wounded in the chest and stomach while trying to hide behind a building in his village, Al Mughayyir, on November 29, 2022. The Israeli Army claimed that he tried to throw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers. © Instagram/@almonster_waleed

Five young Palestinian men were shot and killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank on the night of Monday, November 28. Both Palestinian officials and activists say the Israeli army has buckled down on a “shoot to kill” policy after a coalition including far-right politicians won the legislative elections in November 2022. 

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ARTICLE UPDATED ON 08/12/2022

This video shows the funeral services for brothers Thafer and Jawad Rimawi on November 29 in Beit Rima, in northern Ramallah, in the West Bank. They were 21 and 22 years old.

Brothers Thafer and Jawad Rimawi were both shot by Israeli armed forces during clashes early Tuesday morning in Kafr Ein. Thafer died first, and his brother Jawad died shortly after being taken in for treatment. 

This video was filmed in the village of Kafr Ein, where the Rimawi brothers were shot the morning of November 29. At 28’, after a burst of gunshots, you can hear Thafer Rimawi screaming for help after being hit.

Raed Naasan was shot in the chest on the morning of November 29 in the village of Al Mughayyir. A video filmed by a local shows Nasan running to shelter behind a building before collapsing into the arms of friends, his shirt covered with blood. The Israeli army claims that Nasan tried to throw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers. 

A fifth man was killed on Tuesday by the armed forces after he ran over a soldier and injured her near the settlement of Kohav HaShahar.

From left to right: Jawad Rimawi, Mufid al-Khalil (above), Raed Naasan (below) and Thafer Rimawi were killed by the Israeli Armed forces in villages in northern Ramallah in the West Bank on the night of November 28.
From left to right: Jawad Rimawi, Mufid al-Khalil (above), Raed Naasan (below) and Thafer Rimawi were killed by the Israeli Armed forces in villages in northern Ramallah in the West Bank on the night of November 28. © Observers

These incidents happened scarcely a month after the Israeli legislative elections. In the wake of the election, Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies from the far right have formed a coalition. 

The spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, Ibrahim Melhem, told Arab News that the high number of deaths resulted from orders issued by Israeli political and military leaders giving soldiers the green light to shoot to kill. 

'The army was clearly aiming to kill these young men'

In the early hours of the morning of November 29, Israeli armed forces carried out an armed raid on the village of Kafr Ein. The Rimawi brothers lived in the next village over, Beit Rima. Local witnesses told the team that, when they heard about the raid, the Rimawi brothers joined other young people from their hamlet to go help out their neighbours. 

Mahmoud al-Rifai, the president of the village council in Kafr Ein, told the FRANCE 24 Observers team what happened that morning:  

Right by the village is the Israeli settlement of Alei Zahav, which includes a large military camp. We are used to the soldiers from the base there carrying out raids on our village, either by foot or in armoured vehicles. That morning, they stormed the eastern side of our village and drove their armoured vehicle through the area between Kafr Ein and Beit Rima. But when the soldiers were ready to drive away, they encountered a roadblock built by young men out of branches, rocks and bricks. That’s when the first clash broke out between the soldiers and young villagers, who had started to throw stones and Molotov cocktails at them.

The scene repeated itself again at the entrance to Kafr Ein. This time, however, the soldiers opened fire. They seemed to be shooting randomly. Twenty-two-year-old Thafer Rimawi, who was throwing rocks at the Israeli vehicles, was shot in the chest. 

Thafer’s brother Jawad was next to him and immediately tried to help him, calling for an ambulance. That’s when soldiers fired again, shooting Jawad in the chest and the pelvis. 

When the soldiers left, residents brought the two brothers to the local hospital in Salfit [Editor’s note: 8km from Kafr Ein]. Thafer was brought to the operating theater, where his soul left his body. Jawad was transported to another hospital in Ramallah but died en route. 

The army was clearly aiming to kill these young men because they were all shot in the chest, the stomach or the head. It’s a tragedy but it isn’t surprising. When it comes to killing, the occupying forces don’t differentiate between young or old, man or woman. 

This toll of five deaths in 24 hours adds to the 153 Palestinians killed in the West Bank in 2022. The toll has nearly doubled since 2021, when 77 people were killed in the West Bank. 

'The Palestinian streets have never seen as much death as in the past months'

Jad al-Barghouthi is an activist who has spent time in Israeli prisons himself. A native of Beit Rima, he is a friend of the Rimawi family. 

The Palestinian streets have never seen as much death as in the past months. Israeli society is veering more and more to the extreme right, especially after the recent legislative elections [Editor’s note: won by the rightwing coalition in November 2022]. 

The killing of these young people still in their prime is the natural result of the radicalisation of the government and the country’s armed forces. Even during the electoral campaigns, the parties in the right-wing coalition [Editor’s note: which includes ultranationalist leaders] openly employed anti-Arab rhetoric and called for the deportation of politicians who they called “traitors”. 

After journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in May 2022, there were calls for the army to revise its “rules of engagement”, which allow soldiers to shoot certain civilians even when they pose no active threat. However, the future minister of national security wants to “relax” these rules, allowing soldiers to legally shoot people who throw stones or Molotov cocktails.  

What’s worrying is that these far-right members of the coalition have recently been given important posts. For example, Itamar Ben Gvir, a leader within the Israeli far-right Otzma Yehudit party, was recently named the minister of national security. Even Israeli politicians have warned about the danger that this deputy and his followers represent for the nation… 

Several Palestinian independence movements have called for a general strike to protest these murders on November 29. Here in Nablus, businesses shut on November 30.

We don’t have proof of shoot-to-kill orders being given to soldiers, but the proof is on the ground, with each Palestinian who is shot and killed. There will likely be a bloodbath in coming weeks. 

Our team tried to contact the Israeli Defence Forces. We have not received a response, but if we do, we will update this article. [Update on 08/12/2022] We received their response on the 7th of December. Here it is: 

"As part of the response to violent riots, which often include explosive devices, Molotov cocktails and stones being hurled at soldiers -and Israeli civilians, as well as other acts of violence, soldiers use riot dispersal means, and when necessary - live bullets.

Soldiers use live fire after all other options are exhausted and in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures which comply with international law, and do not deliberately aim fire at civilians."