07 January 2011 | Ma’an News
During an arrest raid in Hebron which appeared to target Hamas men released from PA custody the day before, Israeli forces shot and killed a 66-year-old man in his bed, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity.
Arrested in Hebron overnight were Wael Al-Bitar, Majdi E’beid, Ahmad E’wewy, Muhand Neirukh, and Wisam Al-Qawasmi , all released from PA custody the day before, following intense lobby efforts from the detainees, who had been on hunger strike for weeks.
A sixth man released, Mohammad Suqieyah, returned home to Jenin and was not detained during the raid.
The execution came during the arrest of Wael Al-Bitar, who was released to his home in Hebron, one floor under Omer Salim Al-Qawasmi, the elderly victim. The two lived in the Ash- Sheikh neighborhood of Hebron.
Omer’s son Raja’e was home when Israeli soldiers broke into the building and came up the stairs. It was during the dawn prayer and he said his mother was in the livingroom praying. “Soldiers forced her into my disabled brother’s room, then entered my father’s bedroom.”
He said he heard no shots fired, saw the troops leave the building and then “they arrested Wael, who lives on the first floor of our home.”
When the troops left the area with Al-Bitar, Raja’e said they went to check on his father. “We were shocked, he was drenched in blood, we did not hear shooting, I suppose they used a silencer to kill my father.”
Raja’e said the only reason he could think of for shooting his father, was that they thought Al-Bitar was living on the second floor of the building.
“They thought it was Wael so they fired bullets immediately after entering my father’s room while he was sleeping in his bed, I guess they did not make sure of his identity.”
Medical sources in Hebron’s Governmental Hospital said Al-Qawasmi’s body was received with several gunshot wounds to his upper body, and bullet wounds that had smashed his face.
An Israeli military statement about the incident confirmed that “a Palestinian man who was present in one of the terrorist’s homes was killed,” adding that the military ” regrets the outcome of the incident and the GOC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrachi has ordered the commander of Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon to immediately investigate the incident and to present its conclusions as early as next week.”
The statement said only five men were detained during the raid.
The men detained during the raid had been released the day before by order from President Mahmoud Abbas, following a negotiation with the prisoners and their political party. Six were released.
Most of the men had not been sentenced but were being held for various crimes by the PA, all connected to their involvement with the resistance movement and their affiliation with Hamas. Police had said that they could not guarantee the safety of the men, who were reportedly wanted by Israel.
Hebron Governor Kamel Ihmeid cast the move as an effort toward inter-Palestinian unity during a news conference in Hebron, where the prisoners had been moved to be closer to their families. Until late December, the prisoners were being held in Bethlehem.