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From the field

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

Update: On 20 March 2005 the attorney for Central Command informed B’Tselem that a criminal investigation would not be launched as his inquiries show that in the course of an arrest operation to apprehend two wanted individuals, Abu Rajab was seen holding a suspicious object. Shots were fired because it was suspected that Abu Rajab was armed and might be one of the two wanted men. The attorney said that, therefore, there were no grounds for ordering a criminal investigation.

Fatama Qa`aqur, age 21

My husband, Mahmoud Ahmad Abu Rajab, 27, our ten-month-old daughter Janat, and I live on the ground floor of a two-story building that belongs to Muhammad's parents. The ground floor is divided into two apartments. Our apartment is on the western side, and includes a bedroom and living room. On the northern side is the apartment of my brother-in-law Nidal, 24, his wife, and their two children. Muhammad's parents live on the first floor with their seven other children. My brother-in-law's home and his parents' home share a joint entrance to the north side of the building.

Muhammad worked as a laborer. Recently, he was unemployed. To the best of my knowledge, he did not belong to any Palestinian organization, political or military. He was never arrested by the Israeli army. Muhammad was a regular guy. Over the past few weeks, he had suffered from kidney problems.

On Tuesday, 2 March 2004, at about 2:00 A.M., Muhammad and I woke up to the sound of shouting in Arabic. Although it was winter, the night was unusually warm and the fan was on in the bedroom. I asked Muhammad to turn off the fan so that we could hear the shouting more clearly. We heard the army telling the residents of our street to come out of their homes. Muhammad put his shoes on and told me that he wanted to go to his parents' house to wake up the family. Before he went out, he asked me to get things organized, to take Janat and our ID cards and to follow him. He went out and I looked for his ID, but I couldn't find it. Immediately after he went out, I heard a volley of gunfire. I didn't know in which direction the shots were fired. After the shooting stopped, I picked up Janat and went toward the door of the house. When I opened the door, shots were fired toward me. I went back inside and waited until the shooting stopped. I went to the front door again and then heard Muhammad groaning and saying '“Mama.'” I immediately realized that something had happened to him, and shouted '“Muhammad is dead, they've killed him.'”

At the same moment, my sister-in-law Ismahan, 19, came to the front door and asked me to wake up Muhammad. I guess that she hadn't noticed Muhammad on the ground because it was so dark. I told her that Muhammad had been killed. We both shouted, and in our fear we ran quickly toward my mother-in-law's house. As we left, we saw Muhammad lying on the ground about three meters from the front door. We came to the yard by the entrance to the apartments of my brother-in-law and father-in-law. Seven or eight soldiers were standing in the yard. I yelled out, '“They killed Muhammad.'” My mother-in-law was standing in the yard about two meters from us. I told her that Muhammad was dead, and she shouted at the soldiers, '“Why did you kill him?'” One of the soldiers, who spoke Arabic, asked who Muhammad was, and my mother-in-law said, '“My son, my son.'” He asked her if he was a terrorist, and my mother-in-law replied, '“He isn't a terrorist, he's a regular guy and he is sick. Why did you kill him?'” I held Janat in my arms, crying and shaking, and then one of the soldiers told me to leave the child and go with Ismahan to bring Muhammad into the yard.

I saw that some of our neighbors and Muhammad's brothers were sitting on the wall that surrounds the yard to the east of our home. Bara'a, 10, Muhammad's sister, was also with them. I went to her and asked her to look after Janat. Ismahan and I went to the front door of our home, about three meters from the yard where the soldiers were. As we approached, I could see that Muhammad wasn't moving. I realized that he was dead. I held him from one side and Ismahan held him from the other side. We tried to lift him up, but he was very heavy, so we dragged him along the ground to a dirt path by the yard - about eight meters.

Two soldiers who were in the yard went up to Muhammad's body and searched him. At the same time, an army vehicle arrived and two more soldiers got out. They had flashlights which they shone at Muhammad's face, and then quickly moved them away. My mother-in-law went up to the two soldiers who were searching Muhammad and shouted, '“You killed him. His ten-month-old daughter is an orphan now. Why did you do that?'” I heard one of the soldiers tell her in Arabic that he was sorry. My mother-in-law asked the two soldiers to let her take Muhammad to hospital, but they refused.

Two more soldiers arrived from the north side of the path. They were carrying a stretcher. They put Muhammad's body on it and told me, my mother-in-law, and Muhammad's brother Ahmad, 14, to carry the stretcher toward an army jeep that was parked by the mosque, about thirty meters away from where we were. When we got there, I saw a long army jeep and several army vehicles parked around the mosque. After we put Muhammad's body down by the jeep, two other soldiers came up to us and took my mother-in-law a few meters away from us. Ahmad and I stood opposite the mosque, by the stretcher. After about twenty or thirty minutes, my mother-in-law and two soldiers came back. The soldiers went up to Ahmad and asked him how old he was, and then told him to go with them. They moved about ten to fifteen meters away from us. Ahmad was also brought back after about twenty minutes. Then they took my mother-in-law away again for a few minutes and brought her back. When she returned, she asked me to go to the two soldiers. One of them called me by my name, Fatma. When I approached, I saw about twenty soldiers and a commander. I think the commander was from the General Security Services. He had a black shirt on, and was short, stocky and had blond hair. I noticed that he didn't pronounce the letter '“r'” properly.

The commander asked me if I work, and I said no. Then he asked me where I went the day before at about 9:00 A.M., what I did there, and who I saw in the area around our house by our goat shed when I came back. He added that he knew I wasn't gone for long. I replied that I had gone to take food to my aunt, who lives in Barqa`a, and when I returned I saw Muhammad with his brothers Ibrahim, Ahmad, and twelve-year-old Hamza, standing by the goat shed. He asked me if we have an empty well, and I replied that since it is winter now, the well is full. He asked me if I was sure that there was no one in the house, and I replied that there wasn't anyone inside. He said that maybe I was unsure and not concentrating, because my husband had been killed. I replied that I was sure that there was no one in the house, and then he said that Muhammad was a terrorist. I replied that Muhammad wasn't a terrorist, and that he had been killed when he left the house to wake up his parents and brothers.

The commander asked me what was in the goat shed, and I replied that it used to be Muhammad's grandmother's house. He asked if any men were living there, and I said no. He asked me to tell him the names of the daughters of Muhammad's grandmother. I told him that she had four daughters, but I didn't know their names, because I originally came from the village of Tarqumiya and had only married recently. I told him that I only knew my husband's immediate family. After he finished asking the questions, he told me to go into the home of Muhammad's grandmother, who lives by the mosque, and leave the door open. When I went in, I saw Muhammad's brothers and grandmother and my mother-in-law.

I should add that while they were interrogating me, I heard heavy gunfire. Later, I saw the bullet marks on the outside walls and inside my house and my father-in-law's house. While we were in the grandmother's house, I heard the soldiers calling for the occupants of my house to come out, even though the house was empty.

I asked my brother-in-law Ibrahim to ask the soldiers to let me bring clothes and diapers for Janat, but they refused. The shooting continued until the time of morning prayers, at about 4:45 A.M., and then stopped. Ibrahim, who was following what happened from the window in the grandmother's house where we had been imprisoned, told us that after the shooting stopped, the soldiers went into our house with dogs. Then the soldiers must have seen Ibrahim watching them through the window, because they ordered him to close the window and the door.

After the shooting stopped, we came out of the grandmother's house. Outside were soldiers, as well as our neighbors, school students, and women. At about 7:00 A.M., an army bulldozer drove onto the dirt path and began to widen it. I thought it was going to demolish the houses, and the others probably thought the same thing, because the women and children threw stones at it. I stood opposite the grandmother's house and watched the soldiers throwing gas and stun grenades at the women and children. The bulldozer made a pile of earth in the middle of the road and then stopped working. After 8:00 A.M., the soldiers left the area. Muhammad's brothers and the neighbors told me that the soldiers had transferred Muhammad's body to a Palestinian ambulance that arrived on the scene, and it had been taken to `Aliyah Government Hospital in Hebron. They told me that the soldiers had arrested Ibrahim. Later, my father-in-law and his sons told me that they had gone to the hospital and seen the body. They told me that there were six gunshot wounds on the body - on the neck, chest, stomach and legs. Muhammad was buried the same day in the village cemetery.

Fatma Munir Sa`id Qa`aqur, age 21, Abu Rajab's widow, mother of one child. Her testimony was taken by Musa abu Hashhash at her home in Yata, near Hebron on 4 March 2004.