May 2021: Two Palestinians were fatally shot in two joint attacks by settlers and soldiers in the villages of Iskaka and Urif - Awad Harb and Nidal Safadi
On Friday, 14 May 2021, settlers and soldiers raided two villages, ‘Urif and Iskaka, in two separate incidents. The settlers, some of whom were armed, threw stones at homes and local residents who had come out of their homes and threw stones at the settlers to defend themselves and their property and drive them away.
In both villages, settlers and soldiers opened live fire, injuring a total of 12 residents and killing two: ‘Awad Harb (27), who was shot in the abdomen in Iskaka, and Nidal Safadi (30), who was shot in the chest and abdomen in ‘Urif. B’Tselem cannot say whether a settler or a soldier was responsible for the fatal shots in either case. The media reported that an MPIU investigation had been launched regarding Safadi’s killing. Yet, years of experience show that it is bound to close as simply another part of Israel’s whitewash mechanism.
Cooperation between soldiers and settlers in attacks on Palestinians has long been part of the routine in the West Bank, putting the lives, property, and safety of Palestinian residents at risk. On the same day, the deadliest in the West Bank since 2002, 13 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire. B’Tselem documented two other incidents in which Palestinians were killed in similar incursions by armed settlers and soldiers: Isma’il a-Tubasi was killed by settler or soldier gunfire on land belonging to the village of a-Rihiya, and Husam ‘Assayreh was killed by soldiers on the outskirts of the village of ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah.
The Killing of ‘Awad Harb (27), married father of one, in Iskaka
On Friday, 14 May 2021, at around 2:30 P.M., a group consisting of four soldiers and several settlers, at least one of whom was armed, invaded the western part of the village of Iskaka, northwest of the town of Salfit. According to media reports, the incursion occurred shortly after Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli vehicle on a nearby road, lightly injuring two passengers.
Several dozen village residents arrived in the area, and some began throwing stones at the intruders, who were hiding behind a wall about 30 meters away, in an effort to drive them off and defend themselves and their homes. One of the settlers fired live rounds at the residents, while the soldiers hurled tear gas canisters. After a few minutes, several more live shots were fired at the residents. B’Tselem’s investigation could not determine whether the shooter was a settler or a soldier. ‘Awad Harb, who was standing among the stone-throwers, was hit in the abdomen. He was evacuated to hospital in Salfit, where he was pronounced dead.
In clashes that continued after Harb’s injury, five other Palestinians were wounded by live fire and taken to hospital in Salfit.
‘Awad Harb came to the scene shortly after the incident began along with two of his nephews, Muayad Harb and Qusai Harb, all residents of the village.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 17 May 2021, Muayad Harb (35) described what happened after they arrived:
When we arrived, 10 or 15 guys from the village were already there. Four soldiers were standing near the entrance to one of the houses, and a little behind them there were several settlers. A bit further back, I saw another group of settlers. Young men from the village were standing several dozen meters away from the soldiers and settlers, throwing stones. One of the settlers, who was standing closer to us and several meters away from the soldiers, fired live bullets at the young men while the soldiers fired tear gas canisters.
‘Awad was standing at the front of the group. I was more careful and stood 10 meters behind him. Within minutes, more residents showed up, and then I heard about 7 to 10 shots of live rounds and tear gas. I saw a guy fall. Other guys grabbed the tear gas canisters and threw them back at the soldiers. Some of the guys started shouting, “Allahu Akbar, and “Wounded person, wounded person!” A few guys picked up the wounded man. One of them took off his shirt and pressed the wound on the left side of his midriff. They ran with him, and only then did I see that it was my uncle ‘Awad. I ran to him. I couldn’t bear what I saw.
Harb was taken to a private car that evacuated him to a clinic in the village, from which he was transferred about half an hour later to a hospital in Salfit. He arrived at the hospital unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse. Resuscitation attempts failed, and he was pronounced dead.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 17 May 2021, Quasi Harb recounted:
When we got there, several residents were already there. We asked them what was going on, and they pointed to the end of the road. I saw two settlers there, one of whom was holding a weapon. The other one was behind him, so I don’t know if he was armed or not. Several meters away from them, there were four soldiers hiding behind the fence of one of the houses. The armed settler was kneeling in a sniping position.
Some young guys were throwing stones about 20 to 30 meters away from the settlers and soldiers. My uncle, ‘Awad, was hiding behind one of the trees by the roadside, several meters away from me. I heard shots and saw him fall. I couldn’t believe it! Before I even realized what had happened, the soldiers fired a lot of tear gas canisters. All of the young guys fell back. I felt like I was suffocating from the gas. Meanwhile, a few guys picked up Uncle ‘Awad and took him away.
The killing of Nidal Safadi (30), a married father of three, ‘Urif
On Friday, 14 May 2021, a group of about 10 settlers, some masked, and at least three soldiers invaded an area where a school and a water tower are located in ‘Urif, a village in Nablus District. The settlers uprooted some 100 olive seedlings and destroyed a fence about 50 meters long. According to the military, residents of the villages around the nearby settlement of Yitzhar had set fire to lands in the settlement area.
Several dozen villagers gathered at the site. Some began throwing stones from a distance of about 100 to 150 meters away in an attempt to protect themselves and their land and fend off the settlers and soldiers. The settlers and soldiers opened live fire at them, wounding three of the residents. About an hour later, when the soldiers seemed to move away from the area and the settlers were left by themselves, some residents advanced towards them while throwing stones. The soldiers suddenly reappeared, and, with the settlers, fired live fire at the residents, injuring two of them, including Nidal Safadi (30), who was hit in the chest and abdomen and later died of his wounds.
During the stone-throwing that continued after Safadi’s shooting, the soldiers fired at three other residents. A total of seven residents were wounded in the incident by live rounds fired by soldiers and settlers.
‘A.‘A, a 40-year-old resident of ‘Urif, came to the area of the school after residents were called to the scene. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, he recalled:
I saw several young guys near one of the houses and soldiers and settlers near the school, about 100 to 150 meters away from them. There was intense shooting, so the residents didn’t dare come any closer. After a while, the soldiers and settlers drew back to the northern part of the school. The young men were divided into groups to chase them and drive them away from the residents’ land. The soldiers and settlers moved towards the school and backed away from it alternately. Every time they approached, two of them fired live rounds. One of the shooters was masked. Within 10 minutes, three residents were injured by live fire.
Meanwhile, the soldiers backed away a bit and a few young guys, including Nidal Safadi, advanced towards the school. Then I heard shots, and saw that the soldiers were back, and Nidal, who didn’t get too close to them, was hit. He was bleeding heavily from his back, and his clothes were soaked in blood.
Nidal’s brother, Mustafa Safadi (35), came to the area with him. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, he recounted:
Seven or eight settlers were standing near the school, some of them masked. They threw stones at the residents, who came out of their homes to defend themselves. There were some soldiers there, standing by the village water tower. The soldiers and one of the settlers started firing live bullets. Suddenly, the soldiers drew back, and we couldn’t see them anymore. The settlers were left by themselves. It encouraged the young guys to move towards them. But then the soldiers suddenly came back, shooting live fire intensively at the young men. The settlers also fired. Several residents were injured, and the young men evacuated them. At that time, I saw that my younger brother Nidal, who was five to 10 meters away from them, had been hit. He had large bloodstains on his back. He was taken to an ambulance that arrived there, but he was already unconscious. I drove after them to the hospital in Nablus. By the time I arrived, they had already announced that he had been killed.
My brother had three small children: Maryam (5), Sanad (3), and Ruqayah (2). His wife, Shatha (23), is six months pregnant. I’ve lost a brother and a friend, and today I’m responsible for my brother’s family and children.