“Why are they provoking us? ‘: West Bank leader’s death brings grief – and anger | Palestinian territories
For many in Beita, a town of around 15,000 in the northern West Bank, the killing by Israeli security forces of Fawaz Hamayel last week left them feeling collectively orphaned.
“We lost the soul of Beita. He was everything to everyone, ”said his nephew Ahmad, of the 47-year-old father of three who was a pillar of the close-knit community.
He was fatally injured in what security forces described as “counter-terrorism activities” in Beita and other northern West Bank locations sparked by a deadly wave of Palestinian attacks inside Israel .
Fawaz was known to protest the occupation. He played an active role as a nationalist, both as head of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian Authority, as an activist in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization and as a driving force of Beita’s stubborn resistance to efforts to establish a new settlement on his land. .
“He was definitely an example for the young and the old,” Ahmad said.
But neither the man nor his city had clear links to the recent spike in bloodshed, including the murder of three people at a Tel Aviv bar earlier this month.
Beita Deputy Mayor Mohammed Hamayel, a distant relative who was with Fawaz when he was shot, said he posed no threat. He had come out after hearing that there were injured Palestinians to see if there were other injured residents and to take pictures, the deputy mayor said. Fawaz used to distribute images of Beita to the media.
The Israeli army suggested in response to a question that Fawaz had participated in a violent riot in which stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown by Palestinians.
The death came after 11 months in which residents of Beita supported a costly resistance effort, throwing rocks and rolling burning tires at soldiers guarding empty buildings in the planned settlement. Troops used tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets and sometimes live ammunition from snipers, according to Palestinians and Israeli solidarity activists.
Fawaz helped organize and document the protests, held after mosque prayers every Friday. Mourners said he had an excellent memory and was also the city’s ‘archive’, knowing the dates of death of all of Beita’s ‘martyrs’, including nine shot dead by the forces of security during demonstrations.
On April 13, as tensions mount in the West Bank and Jerusalem, Fawaz woke up very early as usual to clean the Othman Ibn Affan mosque before the imam arrived. Soon after, hundreds of Israeli soldiers, according to locals, arrived in and around Beita.
Seven Beita residents were injured in the raid, with one shot in the eye and another in the head, the deputy mayor said. Four people were arrested and later released, he said, adding that security forces had targeted Beita because of his resistance to the settlement. “They are stealing our land. How can we accept this? he said. “It will increase our hostility towards Israelis and our determination to have our freedom and to live in dignity in our land.”
The deputy mayor called the raid “systemic terrorism”.
Three thousand people, including senior Palestinian Authority officials, attended Fawaz Hamayel’s funeral. But that seemed little comfort to friends and relatives gathered at the home of Fawaz’s brother Aziz on Tuesday.
“Why did they come here in the first place?” his elderly mother, Faiza, wept. “Why are they provoking us? We did nothing.
The feeling was that the Palestinians had lost a genuine and legitimate grassroots leader.
A relative showed a photo of Fawaz sitting at his desk in a suit and tie at the Jerusalem Governorate headquarters, where he served as director of public affairs. His duties were diverse, including helping drug addicts, his brother said.
Her son Qais, 16, smiles, not yet seeming to grasp the huge loss: “I promise in front of you all that I will do my best to study hard in school so that I can study to be a doctor like dad wanted. “. he said.
Beita has become a symbol for Palestinians of popular resistance to the Israeli occupation. But it was very expensive.
According to the coordinator of the UN humanitarian affairs office in Jerusalem, there have been more than 1,200 Palestinians shot and injured in Beita by rubber-coated metal bullets and Israeli live fire since May last year. Some people have been shot more than once. About 150 residents of Beita are now disabled due to Israeli fire, according to the local municipality.
Between 10 and 20 members of the Israeli security forces were seriously injured, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said last month.
Seen from Beita, the world has a double standard when it comes to Palestinians. “Here in Palestine, people are being killed and the international community is silent. Israel is above the law. We are human like Ukrainians, but no one holds Israel to account,” Aziz Hemayel said.
The IDF said that during the April 13 “counter-terrorist” action in Beita, dozens of Palestinians rioted and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers. “The soldiers responded with riot control equipment and live ammunition. A hit has been identified.
Almost all of the West Bank localities targeted recently were unrelated to the attacks in Israel, the Palestinians say.
Menachem Klein, professor emeritus at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv and visiting professor in the department of war studies at King’s College London, said the idea of the raids was to “deter” the Palestinians. “[It’s to] show that the army is all-powerful and regain control.