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From the field

Kfar Qadum, 26 July 2006: Attempt to apprehend or execution?

On 26 July 2006, soldiers fired at Hamadah Shtiwi, 18, in the center of Kfar Qadum, a village near Nablus . Shtiwi, who was severely wounded, was treated by soldiers and then taken by military ambulance to Beilinson Hospital , where he died of his wounds.

The media reported that Shtiwi was suspected of attempting to sneak into Israel to carry out a terrorist attack, and that IDF forces surrounded the house in which he was staying, and when he tried to flee, shot him.

B'Tselem's investigation reveals a completely different scenario. IDF forces entered the village in the early evening and detained nine residents of the village, Shtiwi among them. The detainees were taken to two buildings in the village center, where they were questioned. Some of the detainees were handcuffed and blindfolded. For some reason, Shtiwi was not cuffed or blindfolded.

Around 11:00 P.M., witnesses saw Shtiwi leave the building where he had been held and walk along the street. One of the witness described what happened then:

"I saw Hamadah Shaqer Shtiwi come out the door of the olive press. He was surrounded by soldiers. I saw a soldier make a movement with his hand as if he were motioning to Shtiwi to start walking. Hamadah began to walk toward the southern part of the square. About a minute later, when I couldn't see him, I heard gunshots, about four to six shots, and I immediately lay down on the ground."

Another witness confirmed that Shtiwi did not flee, and nobody called to him to stop. When he was about thirty meters from the soldiers, shots were fired at him. The bullets hit him in the head, shoulder, and leg, and he fell to the ground. As mentioned above, the soldiers gave Shtiwi first-aid, and then evacuated him to a hospital in Israel , where he died of his wounds.

The disparity between the IDF's version published in the media and the testimonies given by village residents is startling. According to the witnesses, Shtiwi was not entrenched in a house, but was grabbed in the street, and he did not flee, but left the building where he had been held at a regular pace and under the eyes of the soldiers, who did not try to stop him. If Shtiwi indeed had been suspected of intending to carry out an attack, it is unclear why he was not cuffed like the others. The circumstances of the incident raise a concern that he was executed intentionally, and that the soldiers involved let him go so they could shoot him to death and later claim he had tried to escape. If this is the case, the shooting constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law defined as a war crime.

Even if Shtiwi tried to flee, and had not been cuffed as a result of the soldiers' negligence, shooting him was illegal both under international law and the IDF's procedures for apprehending suspects.

B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate General and demanded that he order a Military Police investigation into the incident.