UN witnesses murder of Palestinian boy
- U.N. staff see boy shot in back
Israeli officer suspended after incident
`Time for tolerance, forgiveness:' Father
MIDDLE EAST BUREAU - Toronto Star Feb 28, 2004
GAZA CITYAn Israeli army officer has been suspended after an unarmed
Palestinian youth was shot in the back at close range as he waved
goodbye to a delegation of visiting United Nations aid workers, the
Star has learned.
Yousef Bashir, 15, remains in serious condition at a hospital in Tel
Aviv, where he was taken after the Feb. 18 incident at his family's
home near the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in the southern Gaza
He is partially paralyzed beneath his shoulder blades, with shrapnel
lodged against his spine, the boy's father said.
An Israel Defence Forces spokesperson confirmed yesterday an unnamed
officer has been suspended in connection with the shooting, pending
the outcome of an investigation.
In a conflict marked by a surfeit of civilian casualties on both
sides, Palestinian claims seldom result in convictions against IDF
soldiers because of conflicting eyewitness accounts.
The Bashir shooting is rare because it happened in plain view of
three U.N. personnel who were visiting the family home.
Rarer still, the victim's father, Khalil Bashir, said last night he
doesn't want punishment for the shooter.
Instead, he's asking that Yousef's plight become "a turning point for
an historic reconciliation with Israel.
"We make a mistake if we let our wounded memory guide our future.
Punishment doesn't pay. What pays is a change of mentality," an
emotional Bashir told the Star.
"It is time for tolerance and forgiveness. I want the Israelis to
know that we, both sides, have no other option. Let us devote
ourselves to melting the ice and find a solution to give our children
a chance to live."
U.N. field workers are routinely forbidden to speak directly to
reporters on security incidents, but the organization has made an
exception in this case.
The witnesses were made available to the Star with the approval of
their superiors on condition their names not be used.
"The boy was no more than five metres from us, waving goodbye after
our visit, with his back to the Israeli observation post," said one
of the U.N. field staff.
"It was absolutely quiet. But then a single shot was fired. The boy
fell to his knees and then he collapsed on the ground. It was like
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind the bullet came from the
Israeli army position. They were only about 20 metres away. There was
nothing else going on. There is no other explanation."
The shooting comes as the most severe incident in the Bashir family's
long struggle with the IDF.
Nearly three years ago, the army confiscated a large swath of the
family property to increase the buffer zone for the Jewish settlers
of nearby Kfar Darom.
In the process, the family said their greenhouses were demolished,
nearly 120 date palms were uprooted and IDF actually moved into the
home, establishing military positions on the second and third floors,
replete with a closed-circuit television camera and camouflage
Khalil Bashir, a school principal in the nearby town of Deir Al-
Ballah, has refused to vacate the home and has moved the family
elderly mother, wife and five children to a single room on the
In recent weeks, the IDF intensified restrictions on the family,
forbidding visitors without prior arrangement and giving them outdoor
access only to their northern garden.
On Feb. 3 just as the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled
plans for a unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli settlements in Gaza,
including Kfar Darom the Bashir family and other property owners in
the neighbourhood were served written orders by the IDF for
additional land confiscations.
According to the orders, signed by IDF Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel, the
Bashirs and 17 other Palestinian families were required to forfeit 43
dunams (one dunam equals one-quarter acre) for a new security fence
to better protect the settlement.
The U.N. field team, based in Gaza City, was visiting the family in
order to investigate the new orders when the shooting occurred.
"We arrived in a clearly marked United Nations armoured car, white
with black markings," a second U.N. staffer told the Star in a
After a brief visit, a soldier shouted for the U.N. visitors to leave.
"Khalil Bashir and his son Yousef walked us back to our car. We
climbed in and began to reverse. They waved goodbye and that's when
the shot rang out and the boy fell to the ground," the second U.N.
"I was terrified we would also be shot. Mr. Bashir shouted at us to
come help. We inched forward, opened the door of the armoured car and
got the boy inside. His legs were like Jell-O. But he was conscious,
speaking in a mix of Arabic and English. We hurried him to hospital
in Deir al-Ballah."
Bashir was transferred that night to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Two
days later he was moved to better facilities in Israel, where Tel
Aviv doctors are weighing
the possibility he will be able to walk one day.
The U.N. witnesses have each written reports. So far, they have not
been interviewed by Israeli army investigators, but expect their
accounts will be raised with Israeli authorities via U.N. diplomatic
"Unfortunately, living in Gaza, we are exposed to some ugly things,"
said one of the workers.
Khalil Bashir said last night he has not been contacted by army
investigators for his account of his son's shooting.
"They (IDF officers) went to my house and apologized to my wife two
times, saying the shooting was a mistake. But whether they made a
mistake or not, the reality is they shot my son," he said.
"In spite of my bitterness, in spite of my calamity and my tragedy, I
thank God my son is still alive.
"In thanks to God, I am more determined than ever to find a way to
peace. I ask our friends all over the world, help me exploit this
chance to change the mentality. I can forgive. Let us all forgive."
Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers near Hebron
Agence France Presse
2 March 2004
HEBRON, West Bank -- A Palestinian was shot dead Tuesday
morning by Israeli soldiers as he fled from a house during a search
by the troops near the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian and
Israeli security sources said.
Mohammed Abu Rajab, 27, was killed during a raid on a house in the
town of Yatta, Palestinian source said.
An Israeli military source told AFP that the man had been shot in the
back after running from a house where other suspected militants were
believed to be hiding.
"The forces called on him to stop and fired a warning shot. He did
not stop," she said.
His death brings the overall toll since the start of the Palestinian
intifada in September 2000 to 3,792, including 2,838 Palestinians
and 886 Israelis.
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