Israeli commander threatens to ‘disable all youth in the camp’ as 2 Palestinians shot in Duheisha
A file photo of a group of Palestinian youth after being treated for gunshot injuries by Israeli forces (Photo: BADIL)
BETHLEHEM – Two Palestinian youths were injured with live fire during clashes with Israeli soldiers in al-Duheisha refugee camp in southern Bethlehem early Friday morning, as reports emerged of an Israeli army commander making repeated threats in recent weeks to make “all youth in the camp disabled.”
Local sources said that two youths were shot and injured in the legs during clashes that erupted after Israeli forces raided the camp in Friday’s predawn hours.
Sources added that Israeli soldiers raided and searched the house of the incarcerated Palestinian Muhammad al-Seifi, detaining his mother and sister by locking them inside their home to pressure Muhammad’s younger brother Naba to turn himself into Israeli authorities.
Israeli forces also blew off the door of the Ibdaa Cultural Center near the entrance to the camp and occupied the rooftop of the building, from where Israeli snipers fired live ammunition and tear-gas canisters at local youth.
Violent clashes in al-Duheisha are common and break out nearly every time Israeli army forces enter the camp, which is located in Area A and should be under full Palestinian Authority control according to the Oslo agreements.
In a response to a request for comment, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that the Israeli army was not involved, and claimed Israeli border police were behind it, despite the area being located outside of police jurisdiction in Area A of the occupied West Bank.
When contacted by Ma’an, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said he was not aware of the raid, saying it “made no sense” that police would be involved, and confirmed that al-Duheisha fell under the Israeli army’s jurisdiction in terms of raids. When contacted a second time, an Israeli army spokesperson insisted again that the army was not behind the raid and could not say who had been.
‘I will make all the youth of the camp disabled’
The clashes come in the wake of reports documented by BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, of an Israeli army commander making repeated threats during and after raids, and during interrogations, to disable all Palestinian youth in al-Duheisha.
The commander is reportedly responsible for the al-Duheisha area, and known to locals as “Captain Nidal.”
Local youth in al-Duheisha told BADIL that Captain Nidal has made statements such as: “I will make all the youth of the camp disabled,” “I will have all of you walking with crutches and in wheelchairs,” “I will make half of you disabled, and let the other half push the wheelchairs,” and “I will make all of you stand in line at the ATM waiting for your disability subsidies and assistance.”
One of the injured youth told BADIL that Captain Nidal told him to tell his friends that “Nidal will make all of you disabled.”
According to BADIL, which is based in Bethlehem, 30 Palestinians have been shot with live ammunition in the camp since the beginning of the year, the majority in their legs and knees.
They added that al-Duheisha had been raided at least three times by Israeli forces between the end of July and mid-August, during which time 18 Palestinian youth between 14 and 27 years old were shot in their legs — eight of which shot directly in the knee and several more in both legs — causing both permanent and temporary disabilities.
An Israeli army spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment on the reports of the threats made by the commander.
“These threats indicate that these actions are not accidental or isolated incidents, but rather result from a systematic Israeli military policy aimed at suppressing resistance, terrorizing Palestinian youth, and permanently injuring them and/or causing significant damage to their physical and mental well-being,” BADIL said in their statement.
The reported threats come amid what BADIL called an intensification of the “systematic targeting” of Palestinian youth in the occupied Palestinian territory — particularly in refugee camps — since the beginning of 2016.
“This targeting has taken the form of injuries and arbitrary killings by the use of live ammunition by the Israeli army in the context of arrest campaigns, military raids, and random wide searches which usually trigger clashes,” the statement said.
BADIL’s statement also highlight a recent Israeli military incursion in the Hebron-area refugee camp al-Fawwar that lasted some 20-hours, during which an unarmed Palestinian teen was shot dead and dozens others were hospitalized.
“These cases of intentional wounding, when added to the comparable actions happening in refugee camps such as Aida, al-Arroub, Qalandia, Amari, and the West Bank at large, prove that these incidents amount to a systematic policy and an implementation of Captain Nidal’s threats.”
“These willful and grave breaches of international law trigger the obligations of third party states and other mandated agencies to put an end to this climate of impunity under which Israeli forces and its officials operate.”
BADIL’s collection of testimonies came as the latest report amid years of well documented cases of abuse and mistreatment of Palestinian children by Israeli forces in the occupied territory, including in East Jerusalem, which is under Israeli police jurisdiction.