Sunday saw the assassination of a young man, Mohammed Qawzah, known as “Azzalayim,” from Tulkarem refugee camp. Azzalayim, 23, believed he had been granted amnesty and pardon by Israeli authorities, but was shot dead at a coffee shop near his Tulkarem refugee camp home Sunday afternoon. A Tulkarem source reported that Qawzah had been told by soldiers that he was no longer on the ‘wanted’ list, that it was safe for him to return home.
Also injured at the same time was, 23 year old Mushir Al-Mansuri, a friend of Qawzah’s, shot in the shoulder and leg and taken to a West Bank hospital. It is unknown thus far whether the Israeli army is pursuing this man or whether he has been granted pardon, it is known however that the deceased was on an amnesty list released by Israel a few weeks ago.
Like many West Bank areas, Tulkarem residents suffer regular Israeli army invasions and kidnappings. Most of the residents have either themselves been imprisoned in Israeli jails or have close family members who have been or currently are imprisoned, held in a cycle of administrative detention which can be extended indefinitely to upwards of 5 years in many cases without ever being officially charged.
One Tulkarem camp resident, Umm S, told her family’s story from a corner of her well-kept home, relating the whereabouts of her 4 sons and 1 daughter: “One was martyred; one has been in prison for 6 years; another was taken 4 months before, after being shot by Israeli soldiers in his leg and chest, and then arrested in his home; and 1 was released after 5 years in administrative detention.” The daughter has spent a year and a half in Israeli prisons. She is 19.
The friend of the family acting as translator cited this one family as an example of families across Palestine: at least 2 immediate family members in prison, usually in administrative detention.
“In the 1st Intifada, the army took our sons and fathers. In this Intifada, they take anyone.”
Referring to the Annapolis summit to begin on Tuesday, he continued: “Israel does not take this summit seriously, but we do, because our brothers and sisters are in jail.”
The translator related his own family experience: “My son is in an Israeli prison. He is 16 years old and has been imprisoned for 1.5 years.”
That would make the boy 14.5 years old upon arrest. The father himself was held in Israeli prisons for 4 years from 1984, and his brother is currently in prison for the long-term.
B, who also translated the stories, has his own story, imprisoned at 16 for 2 years. He had joined the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Fatah-offshoot resistance fighters, at 14 after his cousin was shot and killed in front of him by the Israeli army. Sentenced to 5 years, he had an Israeli lawyer who got him out after 2 years and on 7,000 shekels bail.
He related his arrest: “I was caught leaving my home and taken to the DCO. The Israeli soldiers beat me severely on my kneecaps, then took me straight to jail. They never gave me medical attention. I couldn’t stand up to use the bathroom on my own for one month.”
Post-incarceration, B renounced participation in the Brigades, opting to pursue education: “I quit Al Aqsa because I wanted to educate myself,” he confessed with determination.
Given that he has lost friends and family to the Occupation forces, lost two years of his young life to the prison system, his pledge is convincing, though the future obstacles from the Israeli soldiers and Occupation seemingly unavoidable.
Annapolis nears, but life in camps like Tulkarem continues to grind under Occupation, camp residents continuing to crawl through a mire of unfulfilled peace and amnesty pledges. Life on West Bank roads barely crawls, the number of “flying checkpoints” increasing as the summit nears, the length of lines increasingly in tandem with the hype.
In Tulkarem late Sunday night, Israeli Special Forces disguised as veiled Muslim women, continued with their policy of middle of the night abductions, climbing onto the roof of one home and arresting a man, alleged to be a Hamas member, and his wife, the couple taken to an unknown location.