Incursion in Beit Ommar Leaves Teen in Critical Condition, Home Trashed

5 June 2008

At approximately 1am today, June 5, Israeli soldiers, with their faces painted in camouflage (to blend in with the gray concrete and tan stone walls of Palestinian homes?) invaded the home of Mohammed Fuwad Al-Qoom near the central mosque in Beit Ommar, Hebron District. The family was forced from the home and the soldiers remained all night. At approximately 8am, 7 hours after soldiers first entered the village, an Israeli soldier shot Tariq Abu Maria, 15, in the abdomen on his way to the school. He was taken to the hospital in Hebron, where he underwent surgery and is still in critical condition. By 9:30am 4 large Armored Personnel Carriers and 4 jeeps were in the center of the village, shooting copious amounts of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets and throwing sound grenades.
The youth of the village came out in force, throwing stones, paint, and oil at the APC from which Tariq was shot. The APC was eventually disabled by their creative work, with no injury to the soldiers. Soldiers then began fanning out throughout the center of the village, shooting at random houses. They also shot out the back of Mohammed Hussein Awad’s car and slightly wounded two other youths with rubber-coated steel bullets. Taxis filled with terrified children trying to get home raced through the center of town, trying to avoid being shot or gassed. Three young children, 2 girls and a boy, dressed in their finest took cover in a shop across from the mosque as soldiers shot at random down the street. They were dressed for the end-of-year celebration at their school, their mother told PSP. Women from the village and PSP volunteers escorted them and several other children across the line of fire to their homes. The commander of the ‘operation’ was repeatedly asked why the soldiers had entered the village in the first place, as the soldiers were clearly not searching for anyone or anything. At one point, a soldier told a member of the PSP committee that they were “practicing”.

At 11:30 am, more than 10 hours after first entering the village, the mayor managed to negotiate with the commander to leave. An enormous personnel carrier was called in and the half-dozen soldiers that had been occupying the Al-Qoom home all night ran out, giving each other “cover fire” from imaginary enemies. An international with PSP was finally allowed into the home to document the damage. Soldiers had torn apart the bedroom and kitchen; pulling out drawers, tearing the bedclothes and ripping down the curtains. They had also urinated into a large juice bottle and left it in the home.

The soldiers finally left, leaving behind a scene of pointless destruction, but also a sense of courage and perhaps dignity in the residents of Beit Ommar, as the disabled APC was towed slowly out of the village and people began to clean up.