PSP Co-Founder Shot in the Head, Youth Killed in Beit Ommar

25 January 2008

Mohammed Awwad, 18, was killed today in Beit Ommar by the Israeli Occupation Forces. At least 10 others were wounded throughout the day, including Palestine Solidarity Project co-founder Mousa Abu Maria, who was shot in the head but survived. Mohammed’s “crime” was being from Beit Ommar: the same village where two Palestinians who attacked and lightly wounded settlers in Kfar Etzion yesterday were from. The two Palestinians involved in the attack on Israeli settlers yesterday were shot and killed at the settlement. Still, Palestinian residents of Beit Ommar were waiting for the retaliation, which came with a vengeance this morning.

At approximately 11am nearly a dozen jeeps entered Beit Ommar. They went to the center of town to deliver a warrant to the homes of the men shot at the settlement yesterday. The warrant was a demolition order. Though the Israeli Army officially stopped their policy of demolishing homes of the relatives of people who are accused of attacking Israelis, after an international outcry, in reality this form of collective punishment continues. Residents, including PSP co-founder Mousa Abu Maria, began gathering on rooftops to observe what was happening. Mohammed Awwad, no relation to either of the men who attacked the settlement yesterday, was on the street nearby. When the crowd gathered, the soldiers began shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets and retreated back to the entrance of the village. About an hour later, they returned took aim, and began shooting. Mousa felt a pain in his head and began bleeding profusely. He was taken to the hospital in Hebron as were Mohammed, who was shot fatally, and at least 5 others, most of whom were shot in the legs.

A few hours later the body of Mohammed Awwad was returned to the village. A funeral, attended by thousands of residents, began in the mosque. The procession then led down to the village cemetary, which, unfortunately for the people of Beit Ommar who wish to bury their dead in peace, is right next to the major Palestinian and Israeli highway, Route 60, and the Israeli military watchtower.

The large procession of people gathered near the cemetary and spilled out into the street, closing Route 60, which remained closed for about half an hour. When young men, incensed at the murder of their unarmed friend earlier in the day, began throwing rocks and homemade molotov cocktails at the cement military watchtower, soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd, injuring several more people. Two boys were hit and run over by a settler who had driven by but began retreating after young people hurled stones at their car. Another young boy is in critical condition due to a head injury; it is unclear if he will survive.

The Palestine Solidarity Project condemns in the strongest terms these violent acts on the part of the Israeli Occupation Forces. Collective punishment is immoral and illegal under international codes of law. Israeli Occupation Forces kill unarmed civilians daily in Gaza so the use of this tactic is not surprising. However, the international community must speak out against this policy of revenge killing. On a more personal note, PSP nearly lost a member of our family, a man who is at the heart and soul of our work. We are all very thankful to those of you who have called, written, and offered to help.