Grief-stricken Palestinians recount lethal Israeli raids


Aqabet Jaber, occupied West Bank – Grief and shock fill the slim roads of this refugee camp within the Palestinian metropolis of Jericho.

Crowds of women and men donned in black made their manner on foot from funeral to funeral, whereas different residents spent the morning tending to the destruction of houses, farms and autos.

Early on Monday, Israeli forces carried out a large-scale raid of the Aqabet Jaber refugee camp that lasted for six hours. When it was over, 5 Palestinian males had been lifeless and two significantly wounded – all of whom stay in Israeli custody.

Four of the 5 males had been from the Owaidat household, together with two brothers: Rafaat Wael Owaidat, 21, and Ibrahim Wael Owaidat, 27, and their cousins Adham Majdi Owaidat, 22, and Thaer Owaidat, 28. The fifth man killed was Malek Lafi, 22.

The Israeli navy mentioned in an announcement all seven males had been armed fighters, and two of these killed had been accountable for an tried taking pictures at an Israeli gasoline station named Almog, in occupied Jericho, on January 28.

While it’s sure that armed clashes came about within the camp throughout Monday’s raid, it stays unsure whether or not the 5 lifeless and two wounded had been gunmen concerned.

‘Didn’t count on this barbarity’

Monday’s assault got here on the finish of a 10-day-long, suffocating Israeli military blockade on Jericho metropolis, and only a day after Israeli forces carried out one other main raid on the camp – on February 4 – wherein greater than a dozen Palestinians had been wounded and lots of properties destroyed.

Residents informed Al Jazeera the Israeli military used extreme pressure and brought on widespread destruction in a number of areas of the camp throughout each raids, together with utilizing bulldozers, reside ammunition, snipers, anti-tank grenades, and tear gasoline canisters.

“We didn’t expect to face this kind of barbarity and maltreatment two days in a row,” mentioned Jihad Owaidat, 40, an uncle of two younger males killed on Monday.

“They raided multiple houses in the neighbourhood, forced all the residents to stand outside for hours until the operation was over, including the women and children. They searched the men in a barbaric way – making them take off their clothes in the cold,” he mentioned.

“Half of the children in the neighbourhood have psychological problems now.”

‘They kept beating me’

The assault on the refugee camp in Jericho got here as a part of rising Israeli navy raids and killings in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps within the occupied West Bank.

Since September 2021, various comparatively small, cross-factional Palestinian armed teams – centered on deterring Israeli forces and defending their areas – have been shaped primarily within the cities of Jenin and Nablus. Israel has got down to crush them for greater than a yr.

On Saturday, the first-ever pictures of fighters within the Aqabet Jaber refugee camp emerged throughout clashes with Israeli forces. This was adopted by a public assertion asserting the most recent armed group – the Aqabet Jaber Brigades.

While Israel claims the raids and killings goal fighters, many civilians are sometimes focused and killed, arrested and or mistreated, and their property destroyed.

Last yr was mentioned to be the deadliest for Palestinians within the occupied West Bank because the finish of the second Intifada, or mass rebellion, in 2005.

Israeli forces killed 171 Palestinians, together with greater than 30 kids, within the West Bank, whereas 53 different Palestinians, together with 17 kids, had been killed throughout a three-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip in August.

During Monday’s raid in Jericho, Israeli forces wrecked the small, two-storey home of 61-year-old Adel Hassan Owaidat utilizing anti-tank Energa grenades, whereas he and 7 members of the family had been inside.

“Two of my sons and my nephew were on the staircase coming down to the bottom floor when our entire top floor was suddenly shelled with two grenades,” Adel informed Al Jazeera.

“Minutes later, the tractor literally jammed into the bottom floor and began destroying it. The soldiers were shouting on the speaker: ‘Bring out the saboteurs!’ We told them, ‘There are no fighters in the house,’” he continued.

“They told us, ‘Come out or we will demolish the house on top of your heads.’ They made us come out, one by one, with our hands up. They strip-searched us in the freezing cold, and made us stand on the side [of the road] for hours and asked questions.”

Shortly after, Israeli forces entered the home and fired numerous rounds via the partitions.

Adel requested the troopers, “You went in and searched and you didn’t find anything, so why did you keep shooting inside the house and wrecking it?”

He mentioned it should take about 200,000 Israeli shekels ($57,400) to restore it.

Adel, together with two of his sons and nephew, had been arrested and brought into custody for extra questioning that lasted eight hours. All had been launched with out cost.

“They kept beating me,” Adel’s 17-year-old son Mohammad chimed in. “They would throw us on the ground on the rocks with our hands cuffed behind our backs. They would ask: ‘Where is Malek, where is Raafat?’ And when I said I didn’t know, they would kick me and beat me with their rifles.”

Israel’s navy mentioned it was looking out the camp for “members of a terror cell that attempted to carry out a shooting attack” in Jericho in January.

The home of Adel Hassan Owaidat, which was hit by anti-tank grenades whereas he and 7 of his members of the family had been at home [Zena Al Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

In one other nook of the camp, the moms of three Palestinians killed on Monday sat facet by facet amongst a crowd of household and buddies who consoled them as Quranic verses performed within the background.

The moms mentioned whereas they knew their sons had chosen the trail of resistance and revered them for it, nothing eases the ache of shedding a baby.

Umm Ibrahim, the 47-year-old mom of Ibrahim and Raafat Owaidat, mentioned Israel is “responsible for everything happening”.

“What do you think pushed my sons in this direction? They were filled with anger and pain over the everyday killings, the prisoners – everything. They had loyalty to this country,” she informed Al Jazeera, noting Raafat would take part in confrontations each time the Israeli military raided the camp.

“When Raafat’s friend was arrested, he started working harder so he could cover the family’s expenses, including the lawyer,” she added.

‘Born under occupation’

Hanadi Mahmoud, mom of slain Adham Owaidat, described her son as “someone who loved life”.

“These are our lands – Israel came to us. It arrests, destroys homes, steals land. And now they kill my son and withhold his body?” she informed Al Jazeera. “This is the situation of the Palestinian people – and the Palestinian mother.”

Meanwhile, the mom of Thaer Owaidat, a father to 4 kids, mentioned her son was “15 when he was first imprisoned”.

The younger individuals on the camp mentioned they anticipated the scenario there to move in the direction of one other severe escalation.

“We were born under occupation. What happened is a response to everything that is going on at Al-Aqsa [Mosque], the massacre in Jenin, Nablus, the daily martyrs,” mentioned Adnan al-Mgaiti, a resident in his mid-20s.

“For every Palestinian who is brave and has honour and pride, the entrance of an army four-wheel drive into the camp will never be normal. It never passes with ease. We always have confrontations during raids, but there is no media attention for Jericho.”

Adnan mentioned whereas he “doesn’t know what is going to happen, it seems there are young men working” for armed resistance of the camp – as many others are throughout the occupied West Bank.