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From the field

IDF soldiers shoot and kill Muhammad Abu Rajab after he opens the door for them, March 2004

Muhammad Gharbiya, neighbor

I live in a house to the south of the house of the deceased, Muhammad Abu Rajab, in Yata. On Tuesday, 2 March 2004, at about 2:00 A.M., as my family and I were sleeping, I awoke to shouts in Arabic telling the residents to come out of their homes. I quickly went outside with my wife and children, where we saw about ten armed men in civilian clothes. I think they were from the Israeli special forces. I also saw two GMC vehicles parked about thirty meters to the south of our house. Some armed men led us to the yard in front of the house of Muhammad Abu Rajab. At the same time, seven soldiers in uniform arrived. I did not see how they came, and I did not see an army vehicle.

While we were standing in the yard, I heard someone shout in Arabic, "Come out of the house." I didn't know who they were shouting at. After about three minutes, I heard gunshots from the west side of Muhammad's house. The shooting was intensive. Then I heard someone shout "Mama." At this point, one of the soldiers told us to move a few meters away and sit on the ground on the northern side of the yard. After a minute or so, I heard more shots. This time, the sounds came from the eastern side of Muhammad's house. I saw flashes of gunfire in the air toward the area where we were sitting.

I saw Ismahan, Muhammad's sister, going toward Muhammad's house, and then she and Fatma, Muhammad's wife, came over to where we were sitting. Fatma lifted her baby in her arms. She was crying and told the soldiers who were in the yard, "You killed Muhammad." Muhammad's mother, who was sitting by us in the yard, shouted at the soldiers, "You killed my son."

I heard one of the soldiers tell her in Arabic, "It wasn't us who killed him." There were seven soldiers standing by us, on the northern side of the wall around the yard. One of the soldiers told Fatma and Ismahan to go and bring Muhammad's body. I begged the soldier to let me bring it instead. I said that they were women and it would be hard for them, but the soldier refused. Fatma gave her baby to Muhammad's little sister, who is ten years old, and went with Ismahan to get her husband's body. After a few minutes, they came back, dragging Muhammad's body along the ground. They put the body down by the vines in the yard, about five meters from where we were sitting. At the same time, two soldiers arrived carrying a stretcher. They searched the body and put it on the stretcher. Muhammad's mother cried and went over to the body. She told the soldiers in Arabic, "What have you done to Muhammad? He's a poor, sick guy and he didn't have any security problems. He works in Israel."

A few seconds later, an army vehicle arrived and two more soldiers got out. They were holding flashlights and shone them at Muhammad's face. One of them told Muhammad's mother in Arabic that he apologized. I guess they realized that Muhammad wasn't the guy they were looking for. The same soldier told Fatma, Muhammad's mother and Ahmad, his fourteen-year-old brother, to move the body to the western side by the path. At about 5:00 A.M., the same soldier told me and the neighbors who had come to the scene to go home. I went home with my wife and children, but a few minutes later I left my house and went to stand by the mosque. I wanted to see what was happening in the yard where we had been sitting before.

Two long army jeeps were parked by the mosque, and Muhammad's body was placed on a stretcher on the ground by one of them. I saw an ambulance move toward the mosque, and then I heard a stun grenade explode. The ambulance backed up. After about fifteen minutes, another ambulance arrived - I don't know from which direction. I saw the soldiers move Muhammad's body into the ambulance. Then an Israeli tractor came and started to widen the path alongside Muhammad's home. The villagers gathered around and threw stones, and the soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades. After about half an hour, the tractor and soldiers left the area. It was about 8:00 A.M. I should add that during the whole time I was standing by the mosque, I could hear heavy gunfire.

After the army left the area, I went to the yard by Muhammad's house. Muhammad's brother called `Aliyah Hospital, and they told him that Muhammad's body was in the cold storage room there. I went to the hospital with Muhammad's relatives and we brought the body back for burial. On the way back from the hospital, I sat by the body and saw that Muhammad had been injured on the top half of his legs, and his legs seemed to be broken. I also saw wounds to his chest and neck and behind his ear.

Later, Muhammad's relatives told me that the army had arrested his brother Ibrahim, who is 18, and that the soldiers had gone into Muhammad's home with dogs and fired shots throughout the house./>

Mahmoud Ahmad Muhammad Gharbiya, age 59, married with thirteen children, merchant. His testimony was taken by Musa abu Hashhash at his home in Yata, near Hebron on 3 March 2004.