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Locals in al-Duheisha refugee camp warn of escalating violence by Israeli forces

March 19, 2017 2:28 P.M. (Updated: March 19, 2017 9:28 P.M.)
Israeli forces raid Duheisha refugee camp (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Days after five residents of al-Duheisha refugee camp were shot and injured during a violent military raid, locals have again warned of Israeli forces deliberately targeting unarmed Palestinians in the camp with live fire without justification.

Detention raids in al-Duheisha, which is located south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, have become a near-daily occurrence. Due to the aggressive nature of the raids, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones and are met in response with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, often resulting in serious injuries.

During a predawn raid in al-Duheisha and the neighboring town of Doha on March 15 carried out to detain one person, 34-year-old Iyad Ibrahim Ramadan was shot in the leg while he was standing unarmed on his rooftop, attempting to observe the clashes to see if it would be possible to go to work that morning.

After his brothers Mahmoud and Shadi rushed him the Arab Society Hospital in Beit Jala for treatment, Israeli forces opened fire on their vehicle, with Mahmoud sustaining a head wound from shrapnel.

The incident was captured by a nearby surveillance camera, showing a Volkswagen Golf driving a few hundred meters from Iyad’s home in Doha, before Israeli forces suddenly open fire, prompting Shadi, the driver, to turn back and take another route to the hospital.

“We were targeted without warning and without justification,” Mahmoud told Ma’an on Saturday evening. "The car was hit several times -- it was a miracle we survived.”

Father of the three brothers and mayor of Jenin, Ibrahim Ramadan, responded to the incident, warning of a potential escalation "that could evolve into a popular uprising if Israel continues these violations and crimes against Palestinians."

Three other locals were shot and injured amid the clashes. One of the three, a now wheelchair bound 22-year-old who asked to remain anonymous, told Ma’an after undergoing knee surgery that he was shot while trying to rescue another young man who had also just been shot.

Arab Society Hospital doctor Nasser Jawabra told Ma’an on Saturday evening that while the conditions of all five of the men were improving, dozens of leg and knee injuries he’s seen in recent months have caused permanent disabilities.

"Knee injuries are no longer surprising. We have treated dozens of young men hit in the knees, which indicates that Israeli soldiers are deliberately aiming their guns at this part of the body, because it contains main nerves and arteries and could result in disabilities," he said.

Jawabra was not the first to make the accusation. A report released in August by Bethlehem-based NGO Badil documented the Israeli army’s targeting of Palestinian youth with live fire in the kneecaps and legs.

BADIL said that 30 Palestinians had been shot with live ammunition in the camp from Jan. 2016 to mid-Aug. 2016, the majority in their legs and knees.

The incidents came came as reports emerged of an Israeli army commander responsible for Bethlehem’s three refugee camps making repeated threats to make “all youth in the camp disabled.”

Locals in the nearby Aida refugee camp have also reported escalated military procedures over the past several months, creating what some residents have called a perpetual “atmosphere of fear.” Locals say that Israeli soldiers intentionally provoke youth with tear gas or bullets in order to start clashes with the young Palestinians who sometimes throw stones.

Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their use of excessive force against Palestinians, particularly in refugee camps, during incidents that did not warrant a violent response.
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