After They Killed Him They Shot Him 62 Times

by Juliana Hamada

Thursday, February 27, 2014, 4:00 a.m. Birzeit, Palestine.

In the normally peaceful village of Birzeit, Palestine, the extrajudicial killing of 24 year old Muataz Washaha hit very hard.

Israeli soldiers arrived in the village in the early morning hours, cordoned off the streets leading to his home and surrounded it with jeeps, troop carriers and an armored bull dozer, known in Palestinian parlance as the "Jarafeh."

When all the necessary equipment and personnel were in place, the soldiers called out to the Washaha family to come out of the house and lie on the pavement, face down.

The parents and younger siblings did so, at gunpoint, and the soldiers proceeded to question them, at gunpoint. The soldiers specifically wanted Muataz, but soon it was apparent that he had not exited his home, and his mother confirmed he was still inside.

Mr. Washaha was wanted by the Israeli authorities because of his political activities. They claimed he was a local organizer for The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He had been imprisoned by Israel previously and refused to give himself up willingly, knowing what would be in store for him if he did.

Meanwhile, Washaha's brother and cousins, who had exited the home and did not resist arrest, were handcuffed and subjected to beatings with truncheons all the while being kicked by the soldiers in front of their parents, sisters and cousins. They were subsequently arrested and taken to prison in Israel.

By this time it was almost 7 a.m. and the streets started to fill with children making their way to various schools in the village. The assault on the Washaha family started to draw considerable attention, but the soldiers attempted to keep the children and all others away from the area. As is their wont, some of the boys and teenagers started throwing stones towards the soldiers and their equipment. However, at this writing it is unclear whether the stone throwing precipitated a response of tear gas, or the use of tear gas on the home, in an effort to draw out Mr. Washaha, precipitated the stone throwing.

At any rate, tear gas soon filled the air with its noxious fumes, the shots coming close together. The children attempted to escape along side streets, but the soldiers chased them and made a stand about one-half kilometer out.

By eight-thirty a.m. the soldiers brought in the Jarafeh to break down the house. The Jarafeh is a heavily armored bulldozer on tank treads with a mesh cage surrounding its superstructure. It is equipped with a horizontal battering ram, with which the operator punched holes in the two-story home. After this, the operator raised the bulldozer blade and proceeded to enlarge each of those holes with a rectangular opening about 8 feet wide by about 4 feet high. How?

This was easily accomplished by smashing the area around the punched-in hole directly with the bulldozer blade.

The Washaha family looked on in stunned disbelief as the soldiers proceeded in this way to wreck their home, while their son Muataz was inside.

The mother repeatedly begged the soldiers to allow her to bring her son out, to no avail. They completely ignored her.

Their purpose was clear from the beginning of the assault: the clear intention was to murder, not apprehend, the youth.

It took about 20 minutes at which point the soldiers fired 3 rockets into the home, through the newly created rectangular openings.

Besides causing a fire inside the home, at least one of the rockets was the means of murdering Washaha. It was understood the rocket was the cause of death because of the grievous injury to his face and head, which was unlikely to have happened from any other cause.

After the fire had burned about an hour, a Palestinian Authority fire truck was allowed to pump water on the fire. To no avail, as the damage had already been done.

Strangely, suffocating Washaha with tear gas, taking off his head with a rocket and burning the interior of the home, the soldiers were not finished. They dragged his body from his home, by his feet, and when he was outside, and in front of his family, they shot him 62 times, mostly at point blank range, in his torso.

This further desecration of his body could only have one purpose: the psychic wounding of his parents, all his family, and the community as a whole.

Well, that was effective.

Whether this action delivered the result the soldiers were looking for remains to be seen. The anger simmering beneath the surface of this formerly placid community is palpable, foreboding and unforgiving.

Israeli forces, who can only be characterized as thugs, roam the hills of Palestine, bringing death and destruction as they go, acting with impunity and quite obviously at the behest of the Israeli government. Otherwise, or so it stands to reason, there should be investigations into the repeated criminal behavior of these thuggish Israeli forces.

What civilized nation allows this?

What civilized nation condones the willful and cruel destruction of a family's home and the killing of their son?

What civilized nation condones the middle-of-the night raids on homes terrorizing people and arresting children, some as young as nine years of age? What civilized nation condones the denial of land and water rights to people?

What civilized nation throws up 25-30 feet high cement walls or razor-wire fences, right through the middle of villages in order to grab the land?

What civilized nation fights a protracted (65 years now) assault on a people who are essentially defenseless as well as "offense-less?"

What civilized nation regularly gasses children, and shoots them too?

And perhaps the most important question, What civilized nations ALLOW another nation to commit all these crimes, and more?

Amira Hass in Ha'aretz wrote about the same killing in this way.

A dreadfully bad report on this by Isabel Kershner in the New York Times with slight hints that the Israelis may have overreacted.

and Gideon Levy writes