Israel kills as it talks

Israel kills as it talks

Israeli occupation forces have killed a Palestinian man in the northern West Bank in what eyewitnesses and neighbours described as "a cold-blooded murder" and "extrajudicial" execution.

The murder took place at the Noor Shams Refugee Camp on 17 September in an area that is supposed to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The family of Eyad Abu Shilbaneh said Israeli soldiers showered the 38-year-old Islamic political activist with bullets, even though he posed no threat to the soldiers.

"He was just waking up from sleep, he was unarmed and he showed no resistance; they could have arrested him had they wanted to," said his wife. "They came to assassinate him, not to arrest him."

Israeli authorities have not denied Mrs Abu Shilbaneh’s account completely. An Israeli army spokesman acknowledged that the man was unarmed and that he posed no threat to the soldiers. However, the spokesman claimed that the kept his hands to his back, which raised the soldiers’ suspicion. The spokesman was silent when asked why the soldiers didn’t just "neutralise" him instead of killing him.

Hamas castigated the "evil murder," saying that the victim was an oblation, or kind of offering, to the resumption of futile peace talks between Israel and the PA. "This crime aims at eradicating resistance against the Israeli occupation in order to pave the road for carrying out a larger conspiracy against the Palestinian people," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a leading Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip.

Abu Zuhri said Hamas would respond to the "the gruesome crime" which he said would never succeed in breaking the will of Palestinian resistance.

While PA officials, including Western-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, denounced the assassination as counterproductive to the "peace process", Hamas accused the Fatah-dominated Ramallah-based government of colluding with Israel in carrying out the killing. "The assassination of Shelbaneh also reveals the ugly face of the Fatah authority which is collaborating with the occupation in killing him," said Hamas in a leaflet.

Similarly, the Jihad organisation made the same accusation, saying that the assassination was "committed under the cover of negotiations with Israel and amid PA efforts to harass the men of the resistance."

Thousands of people from the Tulkarem area took part in Abu Shelbaneh’s funeral, which observers suggest showed that Hamas was still a popular movement in the West Bank. For their part, PA security agencies deployed dozens of agents to photograph and film participants in the procession, probably to arrest and interrogate them later.

On Monday, 20 September, the PA security apparatus detained and reportedly mistreated Abdel-Rahman Zeidan, a Palestinian MP representing Hamas’s political arm. According to reliable sources, PA soldiers raided Zeidan’s home, vandalised furniture and used abusive language during the raid.

According to Palestinian law, MPs are supposed to enjoy "immunity" from arrest and abuse by the security agencies. A PA spokesman admitted that, "No arrest warrant has been issued against MP Zeidan." The "abduction" of Zeidan was strongly condemned by Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Aziz Duweik, who called on Arab parliamentarians to condemn the harsh treatment being meted out to their colleagues in the West Bank at the hands of the PA that receives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from Arab states.

The PA has lately stepped up persecution of Islamist MPs, mainly as a reprisal for the strengthening of Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip. Local and human rights sources spoke of "provocative raids" on Islamist MPs’ homes and unjustified arrests of near relatives. An especially ugly incident of this nature occurred recently in the small town of Shoyokh near Hebron when PA troops raided the home of MP Samira Halayqa, arresting her son and later her husband who were placed in solitary confinement for several weeks.

Ordinary citizens in the West Bank wonder why the Palestinian security agencies don’t face the Israeli occupation army or even protect themselves when attacked by Israeli troops. The latest killing at Noor Shams was the latest of a series of murderous crimes committed by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians. Last week, the Israeli army murdered a 90- year-old Gazan and his teenage nephew who were tilling their land not far from the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Indeed, thousands of Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, have been killed knowingly and deliberately by the Israeli army during the past few years. Only a few soldiers have been disciplined for the killings. Meantime, the outgoing Israeli chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, has warned that violent "clashes" could break out between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian resistance activists if peace talks collapse.

Ashkenazi, speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, told lawmakers, "We must be prepared for every possibility. The Palestinians have very sober expectations regarding progress, whereas in Israel, tensions exist among the Jewish population and the aspiration to end the construction freeze in settlements."