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Mahsanmilim: Murder at Huwwara

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This time we came to the checkpoint especially in order to gather testimony about the murder of 15.5-year old Fahmi Abd al Jawaad al Darduk (فهمي عبد الجواد الدردوك), who was shot by the soldiers at this checkpoint on Monday, May 19th 2008.

After he was shot, the army claimed that pipe bombs had been detected in his belt. That wires had been seen hanging from under his clothing. That three pipe bombs had been observed. Later it was said there were five. One of the perpetrators of this crime was cited for excellence.

A Palestinian ambulance arriving from Nablus twenty minutes later at the most was not permitted access to the bleeding boy until 11:30 PM. For two and a half hours he lay on the concrete floor of the checkpoint and no one was allowed to approach him, but the occupation forces. During this time all Palestinians in the area were violently pushed away and the blood washed away with water jets.

In its habitual knee-jerk reaction, Israel immediately publicized the announcement of the Occupation Forces’ PR office, aka the army spokesperson, that a twenty-year old had reached the Huwara checkpoint with three pipe bombs and was legally shot. After a while the reports spoke of a sixteen-year old carrying five pipe bombs. Then again just three. And lots of visible wires.

None of the four to six bullets hitting his body in various places and fired at a very short distance caused any kind of explosives to blow up.

We spoke with people there and they told us:

“We were here around the stall (one of the several vendors’ stalls in the taxi-park adjacent to the checkpoint), about twenty-thirty of us, I went to the stall closest to the checkpoint to get a cup of coffee. Just then I heard shouting inside the checkpoint. First, the soldiers yelling something like ‘he’s got explosives on him!’ and people were yelling at the soldiers that this was not true, that he had a cell phone on him, and then there were shots. Six or seven shots.”

“I went up to get a look, me and some others, and the soldiers yelled at us to get back. But people did not go back. And people inside yelled “He’s dead! He’s dead! The boy is dead!”. And they shouted that he must be taken to the hospital. Then the soldiers threw teargas at us. And they closed down the whole checkpoint. And made us leave the stalls and go to the Awarta checkpoint.”

“So we left the stalls open, just like that. Taxi drivers had to get out of their cars, everybody. Around 100-120 people. The whole crowd at the checkpoint. And the drivers. We were chased away.”

“They came to us running and ordered us to get out of there, quick. Lots of soldiers. They continued to chase us, running, and threw concussion grenades and teargas. Four-five grenades.”

“We ran off. They chased us away like goats. To Awarta CP, across from the army base nearby. And they held us there until 1:30 AM.”

“From there we could see everything going on at the Huwwara checkpoint.”

“When we were being pushed off on the road towards Awarta, there were settlers standing by at the bus-stop there, and they started throwing stones at us.”

“The soldiers watched… The soldiers watched.”

“We were held at Awarta until 1:30 AM. And we lost all our goods at the unattended stalls. I had to spend 50 NIS just to take a taxi. How else would I get home in the middle of the night. Everything I had at my stall I had to throw away. Lost all the money.”

“Why did they not let the ambulance approach, save his life. The ambulance got there very quickly, within 10-20 minutes. One of ours, from Nablus. But they wouldn’t let him through. A Jews’ ambulance came too, and the medics were told he’s dead.”

“The boy was inside the checkpoint, we didn’t see him. People standing in line with him told us what the soldiers did. Someone who had stood right behind him told us how he was killed. How the soldiers killed him.”

“He had just left his home. It happened at about 19:30-19:40. He had just got to the checkpoint, stood waiting for the inspection, nothing special, and he has two cell phones. And an earphone. The earphone wire passing under his shirt, not over it. Inside, not out.”

“When he went through the turnstile he was ordered to “lift your shirt, show your belly.” He lifted his shirt. When they saw the earphone wire, and the cell phone, they shot his head, immediately. Before he even passed through, he was shot in the head. The woman-soldier shot him. Yes, the woman-soldier. But she was not the only one. Not one shot. Six shots. That’s what people said who saw it. The man who was waiting next in line.”

“Until 23:30, the boy lay on the ground. No one was allowed to get close. From where we stood in the Awarta CP, we could see the checkpoint. We saw that the ambulance from Nablus was not allowed to approach. Nor doctors, no one. Everything was shut down. Only around 11:30 PM. Perhaps around midnight, then their IDs were checked and they were allowed to get near him.”

“But before that, the blood was washed away. With water. They brought a fire-truck with water jets.
We know the driver of the fire-truck and he told us that the next morning they had to come there and wash the spot again. To wash away the blood.”

“They killed the boy and his family. The whole family burnt out.”

“His parents didn’t know it was him, he was not carrying an ID. Perhaps the soldiers took it from him, or because he was too young to possess an ID. He was held, dead, at the hospital. Only the next day his parents found out it was him.”

“That day when it happened was absolutely horrific. Totally horrific.”

The boy’s father, interviewed on various Palestinian news channels, said Fahmi was a ninth-grade student at the Abd al Hamid al Saeh School, single brother to his seven sisters, and he had been on his way to pay a family visit in Ramallah. He never used to leave home without permission, and on his way to the checkpoint he was keeping in touch by telephone, because parents tend to worry, that’s how it is. The father said, painfully that the boy told him he had already gone through the checkpoint even though this was not true, probably to calm his father. He said the boy had a cell phone with an earphone, like most of the youngsters these days. And that everything the army reported is false accusation.

On the morrow of the murder, the soldiers came to the vendors who had witnessed what had happened, and asked them things like “Are you missing anything from your stalls?” As if trying to do-good with people. “What have you found missing? A coke bottle? That’s what the Occupations soldiers asked someone, caringly.
If anything had been stolen from you, just tell us, the officer said to someone else.

How unsurprising that the same policy that normally trashes their goods and scatters vendors’ food on the ground and chases them away in order to deny them their livelihood again and again, following the same law and norms, suddenly sends emissaries to inquire ‘caringly’ whether they’re missing some Coke.
And right on the day after they had witnessed the murder of a boy by the soldiers at the checkpoint.

“I heard from people who heard on an Israeli channel that the shooting was accidental… That’s what they say.”
No, we corrected the speaker. That’s not what they said. In Israel they said the boy was carrying explosives. And that’s why they killed him.
“Really, that’s what they told? They didn’t say it was a mistake?”

Witness after witness tell us similar renditions of the shooting, the shouts, the Palestinians’ pleas not to shoot, the ambulance prevented access, how the boy lay alone on the concrete for hours before anyone was allowed close, that he had merely been wearing a wired earphone, that this was just a boy, and that the family had been crushed.

“You want to know what happened, but even if you knew, what can you do with these soldiers? You cannot do anything. They killed him. He’s already dead. What could anyone do for his parents? Nothing can help them now. Nothing.”

“I mean… A human being is dead. A child.”

“Everyone says something about what happened, but that guy who was standing behind him, he told. We heard. He was shot and he died.”

“You cannot do a thing. I’ve seen you, poor women. Seen you being pushed once by the soldiers, and I said to you then I wonder what kind of garbage dump these soldiers came from, remember?”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“And if a soldier will come, I’ll tell him there was nothing on this boy.”

“Why? listen: They fired at him, right? Why didn’t it blow up? I want to speak to television. If he had something on him, how come it didn’t blow up?”

“And if he wants to kill soldiers, would he also want to kill all the Palestinian people standing there? If he had wanted to kill anyone, it would be just the soldiers, anyway if he had had anything on him, it would blast when he was shot.”

“We wouldn’t want anyone to come kill anyone either. We want peace. We don’t want guys coming and making trouble. But if he did have explosives and was fired at, why didn’t the boy blow up? That’s what I say.”

“We don’t want blood, I want to repeat this. No blood. That’s what I want to say. Neither Jewish nor Arab. We want peace. First the Jews and Arabs lived together. There is enough land. Why not live in peace together. That’s what we want.”

“You know whose land this is here? The village of Burin. This guy who’s a vendor here, it’s his. Our land. But don’t think we don’t want to live together. We don’t want anything happening to any soldier. And to no Arab here.”

“But I ask you, if I had arms on me and I would want to pass through this checkpoint, I mean I know I would be inspected. I know that. So this is where I wouldn’t come. Who would come here like this?
I’m not afraid of anyone. I don’t want Arabs to die nor Jews to die. I want your children and all the Arabs and all the Jews to be one.”

“And if missiles were fired at us, we’d stand together.”

Fahmi’s body, so it turned out, was hit in various places. No one knows if he expired on the spot or slowly bled to his death. If he was conscious before dying. And whether he asked for help or talked.
Only the soldiers who murdered him, and those who came to conceal what had happened – they know the answer.

The army spokesperson announcement, Monday May 19th, 2008, 21:58
“An attempted attack against the Huwara checkpoint was thwarted”

A short while ago, a suspect Palestinian reached the Huwara checkpoint south of Nablus. His pacing to and fro aroused the suspicions of IDF soldiers on the spot. They called to him and noticed he was fidgeting with a belt he carried on his body. The belt was suspected as am explosive device.
As he did not stop moving, and suddenly dropped his hands towards the belt, he was shot by the force. On the Palestinian’s dead body three pipe bombs were found.