Israeli soldier shoots and kills ‘Omar al-Badawi, 22, who was trying to put out a fire started during a clash between soldiers and Palestinian youths
On Monday morning, 11 November 2019, at around 8:00 A.M., several dozen children and teens from al-’Arrub Refugee Camp, north of Hebron, threw stones at Route 60, which passes by the camp, as part of protests held to mark the 15th anniversary of Yasser ‘Arafat’s death. Soldiers who were near a military tower at the entrance to the camp fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters at them and hurled stun grenades. At around 10:30 A.M., some of the children and teens went into the camp. Soldiers chased after them and continued to fire tear gas canisters and “rubber” bullets and to hurl stun grenades.
Some of the children and teens stood by four houses that belong to the al-Badawi family and threw stones at the soldiers. At around noon, a soldier fired a tear gas canister at them. The canister landed in a passageway between the houses and the gas seeped inside. ‘Omar al-Badawi, 22, moved with four members of his family to the house behind theirs, belonging to his uncle Nur, 29.
A short while later, after the gas dissipated, Nur and ‘Omar al-Badawi went outside and stood in the passageway between the houses. Teens in a nearby alley threw several Molotov cocktails at the soldiers, who fired live rounds in the air in quick succession. At least one of the Molotov cocktails hit the front of one of the al-Badawi homes and set a vine and a power line on fire. 'Abd a-Rahman Hassan, a journalist who was standing in an alley in front of the house, was burnt by the fire. ‘Omar al-Badawi called him into the passageway, where Hassan continued to film what was happening.
‘Omar al-Badawi wanted to put out the fire. Video footage shows him standing in the passageway holding a towel, and slowly making his way forward while waving to the soldiers to signal he was coming. When he reached the end of the passageway, a soldier standing further down the road opened fire and hit him in the chest.
While residents, journalists and relatives were evacuating the wounded man, soldiers hurled a stun grenade toward them. Al-Badawi was taken to a private car and driven to the camp’s UNRWA clinic. About fifteen minutes later, an ambulance took him from there to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.
B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash took testimonies from several camp residents and journalists who witnessed the shooting.
Tareq al-Badawi, 25, a relative of ‘Omar’s and a media and journalism student, followed the incident from his window. In a testimony he gave on 14 November 2019, he recounted:
Some kids were in the narrow alleys and behind the houses, throwing stones every now and then at soldiers who were standing on the road. The road passes under my house and the house of Haitham al-Badawi, ‘Omar’s dad, who’s a relative of mine. In response, the soldiers hurled stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters and “rubber” bullets. At around noon, soldiers fired tear gas into the passageway between our house and Haitham’s. My mother closed the door so the gas wouldn’t seep in.
I looked out of the window that faces west, overlooking the road, and saw about seven soldiers on the street corner. Three more soldiers were standing in the corner across from the alley that runs in front of our houses. A Molotov cocktail hit the window and the curtain caught fire. A plant outside also caught fire. I was about to go outside when I heard a lot of gunshots fired one after the other. My mother made me stay in. I heard ‘Omar ask for water to put the fire out. I opened the door and stuck my head out to see what was going on. Just then, I heard a single shot and saw ‘Omar roll down the stairs and out of sight.
I called out to him, “Are you hurt?”, but he didn’t answer. I ran outside and saw ‘Omar lying on the ground with three journalists and another relative gathered around him. He was bleeding from the chest and back. I tried to stop the bleeding with a towel. We picked him up and walked south, shouting for a car to come and get him. ‘Omar was badly injured. We advanced a few meters and then I heard a stun grenade explode nearby. I realized the soldiers had come back to get ‘Omar. We tried to carry him into one of the houses, and then a neighbor drove up with his car. We got into the car, with ‘Omar lying on my legs. I put my knee under the wound in his back to try and stop the bleeding. We got to the UNRWA clinic quickly. The doctors and the nurse there tried to treat ‘Omar and stop the bleeding. About 15 minutes later, an ambulance came and took him to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron.
‘Omar’s uncle, Nur al-Badawi, a college administrative worker and married father of two, was standing behind ‘Omar when he was shot. In a testimony he gave on 17 November 2019, he described what happened:
A few minutes after 12:00, I heard a lot of live rounds fired in rapid succession. At the same time, I saw that the wall of my brother Haitham’s house had caught fire, along with a plant at a window in Hussein al-Badawi’s house. I heard ‘Omar asking people to bring water to put out the fire. I was standing behind him. He was holding a towel he’d been using to protect himself from the tear gas, waving it with both hands and telling the soldiers he wanted to put out the fire. Suddenly, I heard a shot and I saw ‘Omar fall and roll down to the bottom of the stairs. I ran to him and together with some other people, picked him up and walked along the road that heads south. As we walked, I heard a stun grenade go off. We wanted to get ‘Omar out of there and tried to carry him into a house, because we were afraid the soldiers would try to take him from us. Just then, a neighbor drove up and he took ‘Omar to the UNRWA clinic in the camp.
In a testimony given to B'Tselem staff member Rima ‘Issa on 18 November 2019, 'Abd a-Rahman Hassan, 36, a video journalist from Bethlehem, related:
The soldiers were preparing to throw a stun grenade. It looked like they were getting ready to arrest the children who were nearby. Suddenly, a plant near ‘Omar’s house caught fire. I don’t know why, maybe it was hit by a Molotov cocktail or a tear gas canister. I got burnt in the shoulder and head and ‘Omar called out for me to come over to him, so I wouldn’t get hurt any worse.
As soon as I got to the entrance of the house, the soldiers started firing live rounds. There was a moment of quiet and people yelled that the fire had to be put out. It had reached a power line. Then I saw ‘Omar come out, holding a towel. He went towards the fire to try and put it out, signaling to the soldiers that was all he wanted to do. But one of them shot him right away, before he managed to put out the fire. He was hit at the top of the stairs and rolled down four or five steps. His family started calling out for help, but people were scared because the soldiers were nearby.
I went over to ‘Omar and tried to stop the bleeding with a towel. He was bleeding heavily. From my experience as a photographer, I understood he probably wasn’t going to make it.
We tried to give him first aid and divided the tasks between us journalists – who would continue filming and who would help evacuate ‘Omar. While we were trying to help him, the soldiers hurled a stun grenade.
Maram al-Badawi, ‘Omar’s sister, spoke about what happened in a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 14 November 2019:
At around noon, the shooting stopped for a second and I heard ‘Omar ask for water. Then I heard another shot. I went out of my uncle Nur’s house and looked at the passageway, but couldn’t see ‘Omar there. I called out to him, “Are you hurt”? But he didn’t answer. I went out to the street and I didn’t see ‘Omar there, either. I saw people running and saying ‘Omar had been hurt. A few people picked him up and walked south along the street. I was crying and shouting. People who had gathered on the street tried to calm me down and said he’d been lightly hurt.
I didn’t see soldiers on the street because they’d already retreated after the shooting. A lot of women from my family and neighboring houses gathered at the entrance to our house.
After about an hour, we found out ‘Omar had died. I couldn’t believe it. I screamed and cried. Everyone cried. I still can’t believe I’ve lost my brother. All he did was stand in the entrance of the house and try to put out the fire.
A soldier shot and killed a man from some distance away, while he was trying to put out a fire at the entrance to his house. These are the preposterous, outrageous, immoral and illegal circumstances under which the Israeli military killed 22-year-old Palestinian ‘Omar al-Badawi, for no reason whatsoever, in al-’Arrub Refugee Camp. Al-Badawi had taken no part in the clashes and was making his way slowly from his uncle’s house to put out a fire in front of his house, signaling to soldiers not to shoot. He could not have acted any other way, as the fire might have spread to his house. The soldier, however, could have – and should have – acted differently.
The media initially reported that a soldier “felt danger due to the proximity of stone-throwers”. However, a different report from the same day said the soldier had fired because he “saw al-Badawi in the area where Molotov cocktails were thrown, standing near a fire with a towel in his hand”. The initial probe revealed the “the soldier thought it was a Molotov cocktail and therefore fired at him”.
According to the same report, “an initial IDF investigation indicated that al-Badawi did not pose a threat to the soldiers when he was shot, and that they should not have used live ammunition” and that the military police launched an investigation. Residents of the refugee camp told B’Tselem that Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) personnel returned to the site the next day with the soldier suspected of firing and that some family members gave statements to the MPIU.
However, despite these reports, experience gained over the years shows that these investigations, whether or not MPIU investigators take the unusual step of actually arriving at the scene, are not designed to uncover the truth. In fact, they are merely part of the whitewashing mechanism of Military Advocate General’s Corps. As such, they do nothing to affect the military’s open fire policy and certainly nothing to deter members of the security forces from unjustifiably using lethal fire against Palestinians, as they did in this case. This places the responsibility for al-Badawi’s death not only on the soldier who shot and killed him, but on all those who allow such shootings to recur, time and time again, with no repercussions.
On 11 November 2019, media reports stated that an MPIU investigation had been launched.