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Palestinian accused of Hebron shooting killed after Israeli forces bombard house

July 27, 2016 9:46 A.M. (Updated: July 28, 2016 10:24 A.M.)
The destroyed house of Muhammad Ali al-Heeh, where Israeli forces killed Muhammad Faqih on July 27, 2016.
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man and injured five others in the village of Surif north of Hebron overnight Tuesday, after Israeli soldiers bombarded and destroyed a house he was fortified in, with the Israeli army saying the man was responsible for a deadly drive-by shooting on July 1.

Spokesperson for the Israeli army Avichay Adraee said in a statement in Arabic that Israeli troops exchanged fire with Muhammad Faqih after surrounding the house.

The Israeli soldiers, he said, fired several anti-tank missiles at the house after the “terrorist” started to return fire. A bulldozer from the Israeli army’s engineering corps then demolished the house before Faqih was killed.

It remained unclear by what means Israeli forces ultimately killed Faqih.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an they saw the body of Faqih in the bucket of an Israeli army bulldozer that pulled him out of the rubble.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that five Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated bullets during clashes in Surif.

Adraee confirmed that a Palestinian woman sustained minor wounds during the military attack and was taken to a hospital for treatment, adding in that a Kalashnikov machine gun and a grenade were found in the house.

Locals said Israeli forces detained four Palestinians from Surif during the raid, identified as Ahmad Ibrahim al-Hur, Diyaa Khalid Ghneimat, and Muhammad Ali al-Heeh -- the owner of the demolished house in which Faqih was hiding. Al-Heeh’s mother was also detained.

Adraee confirmed three Palestinians were detained for their alleged involvement in the July 1 attack.

Faqih himself was from the village of Dura in southern Hebron.

Later Wednesday morning, a general strike was announced in Dura and its surrounding villages in southern Hebron in mourning for Faqih, with all shops and organizations closing.

Adraee's statement alleged that Faqih was the gunman who carried out a shooting attack on Route 60 between the illegal Israeli settlements of Beit Hagai and Otniel south of Hebron, which killed Otniel resident Michael Marc, critically injured his wife Chava, with two of their children, Pdaya, 15, and Tehila, 14, sustaining moderate and light wounds, respectively.

Since the deadly shooting attack on July 1, which came hours after Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian woman in Hebron's Old City for an alleged stab attempt at Israeli soldiers, and a day after a stab attack in the Hebron-area settlement of Kiryat Arba that left a 13-year-old Israeli girl dead, Israeli forces launched a widespread manhunt for the gunman.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz initially reported the gunman was suspected to be from the village of Bani Naim, the same village that both the slain Palestinian woman and the slain killer of the teenage girl originated from.

A gunman for a separate shooting attack in Hebron on July 9 remained at large, with the suspect reportedly having fled into the village of Sair.

The closures that were imposed across the district of Hebron have amounted to the most extensive lockdown on the occupied West Bank since 2014, disrupting the access of hundreds of thousands of residents to services and livelihoods, according to the UN, who has said the measures amount to collective punishment on innocent Palestinians.

Villages in Hebron that have been completely sealed over the past month included Sair, Yatta, and Bani Naim. Some 2,700 Palestinian residents of Bani Naim have had their travel permits revoked.

Scores of Palestinians have also been detained in overnight raids in Hebron, and dozens of others injured during clashes between locals and Israeli forces.

According to the UN, 50 Palestinians, including 14 children, were injured by Israeli forces during clashes in the West Bank between July 5 and 11 -- almost all during detention raids, the largest of which took place in Dura, which resulted in 38 injuries. In the same week, Israeli forces conducted 98 search and detention operations and arrested 95 Palestinians, with Hebron accounting for the highest number of operations and arrests.

According to Israel's security agency the Shin Bet, a Hamas movement cell was responsible for the Route 60 attack, Haaretz reported Wednesday.

Three days after the attack, Israeli forces also reportedly detained Palestinian national security services member and Dura resident Muhammad Omaireh.

According to the Shin Bet, Omaireh, 38, admitted to driving the car from which Faqih shot at the Mark family's car, and the weapon and car used in the attack were turned over during the Shin Bet's investigation.

Haaretz also reported that Faqih's brother Sahib was also detained and confessed under interrogation that he helped Muhammad to hide the weapons. Their cousin Muaz Faqih was also reportedly detained for assisting Faqih after the attack.

The Shin Bet statement said Faqih, 29, was previously imprisoned by Israel for his activity in the Islamic Jihad movement, which allegedly included planning attacks. During his incarceration he became affiliated with Hamas, according to the Shin Bet.

Faqih was among nearly 220 Palestinians to be killed by Israeli forces during clashes or while carrying attacks since a wave of unrest swept across the occupied West Bank in October, which has also left 32 Israelis dead.

Israel has come under repeated criticism for failing to carry out due process in response to alleged and actual attacks, particularly in regard to the apparent extrajudicial executions of Palestinians who no longer posed a threat when they were killed.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem has accused Israeli soldiers and police officers of acting as “judge, jury and executioner” for Palestinians during the past few months of unrest, also blaming official encouragement and effective impunity for Israeli forces.

There had been a relative lull in violence prior to the deadly events of June 30 and July 1 in Hebron -- and in the same 48 hours another Palestinian was killed while allegedly carrying out an attack in Israel, while a Palestinian man died during clashes at Qalandiya checkpoint --however, three Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces since.

A 22-year-old Palestinian was killed in al-Ram north of Jerusalem when he and two friends driving in the area stumbled upon an ongoing Israeli army raid in the area on July 13, a Palestinian was fatally shot on July 18 after he allegedly carried out a stab attack outside of the al-Arrub refugee camp on Route 60, and on Tuesday, a 12-year-old Palestinian was killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers al-Ram.

Hebron City and its surrounding villages in particular have grown as the epicenter of upheaval since violence increased in October, where tensions run high between local Palestinians living among an expanding settler population. The Old City area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. Hebron residents frequently report attacks and harassment by the settlers, carried out in the presence of the forces.

Muhammad Faqih

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