What happened in the courtyard of the impressive old building that laborer Wahib al-Dik was helping to renovate that caused a paratrooper to fire a barrage of bullets and kill him? Why did the soldiers enter the courtyard in the first place? Did Dik really intend to throw a large rock at the soldiers? And if so, does that mean he should have been killed? After being shot, Dik fell down the ancient staircase to the sand floor before the terrified eyes of his father, Maslah al-Dik. Both were in part of the group of plasterers renovating the building in their village, with funding from the Swedish government. Just 27 when he died, Wahib left four children between the ages of six months and six years, and a widow who is three months' pregnant.
The renovations have been halted. Several weeks after the killing, the bloodstains are still visible in the sandy courtyard. Also visible is the blood on the two buckets that Dik was carrying just before he was killed. The building is large and beautiful, with an inner courtyard surrounded by giant, ornately decorated arches and an old staircase that goes up to the second floor, to the place where the plasterer stood before plummeting to his death. The old ruin in the center of the village of Al-Dik, west of Ariel, near the Barkan industrial zone, was being renovated with funds from Sweden's international development agency, SIDA. The project was supposed to provide employment while preserving the structure.
"The soldier shot to kill," the project architect with the REVAC company, Khaldun Bishara, wrote. "Dik was a dedicated worker who contributed a lot to the renovation work," he added, demanding that the guilty parties be brought to justice.
The simple living room of the Dik home is strewn with toys and adorned with pictures, including many of Yasser Arafat. The doors and walls are pocked with bullet holes left over from a search by soldiers several months ago for Ayman al-Dik. The father shouted to the soldiers from inside the house that Ayman was not at home, and the soldiers fired. His brother Wahib had never been in trouble with the security forces. Every morning he set out with his father and another brother, Mahayub, for their daily labor as plasterers. About 25 villagers were hired as plasterers for the Swedish renovation project.
On Thursday, December 14, Wahib and Maslah went to work as usual, walking the short distance from their home and mixing the plaster as soon as they arrived. Mahayub did not come to work that day. One group of plasterers worked on the internal walls while another, from the neighboring village of Marda, worked on the large stones on the outside. When the renovation work is completed, the building will house the village council and will surely be one of the most beautiful council buildings in the country. It contains 14 rooms and has stood abandoned for decades. The Swedish initiative was designed to provide employment primarily to more disadvantaged groups in the village. Several elderly laborers are employed, as is one mentally retarded youth.
At around 10:30 A.M., the workers heard that soldiers had entered the village. It was recess time at school, and students had apparently thrown rocks at two Israel Defense Forces jeeps. A group of soldiers suddenly entered the courtyard through the large wooden gate, evidently in pursuit of the rock-throwers. The workers - idle since the work was halted - say that no children had fled into the courtyard. It is impossible to throw rocks at the street from inside the building, since the windows and roof face another direction, and once inside escape is impossible because the main gate is the only exit.
Maslah says that six or eight soldiers entered the courtyard. They stopped at the entrance, beneath the stone ceiling. One continued into the courtyard to where the workers were, under the stairwell on which Wahib was standing. One of the workers, a man of about 45, asked the soldiers what they were looking for. One answered that they were searching for the rock-throwers. The rest happened in a flash.
Wahib was standing at the top of the high staircase. The soldier was at the bottom, in the courtyard. Maslah says his son was holding two buckets of plastering mixture, one in each hand. The next day, the IDF said that Wahib was holding a large rock and threatening to drop it on the soldier. Maslah was just a few meters from the soldier.
A muezzin's call drifts over the houses, a donkey brays, the sounds of the village carry on. Maslah relates that the soldier began shooting at his son right away, without hesitation and without warning, aiming his rifle upward, toward the top of the stairs, straight at Wahib. The distance between them was just a few meters, just the height of the steps. A report from the hospital in Ramallah, where the body was taken, says that Dik was hit by three bullets - two to the chest and one in the right arm. The other workers say they collected 13 shell casings from the courtyard. Wahib plummeted from the top of the steps to the sandy ground. His eyes were wide open and blood seeped from his chest as his father rushed to him.
"Why did you shoot him?," one of the workers yelled, as the soldiers hastily left the courtyard. Maslah carried his dying son outside. He pleaded with the soldiers to call an ambulance, even clutching one by the hand, but he says they hurried into their jeep and drove off, leaving him and Wahib on the road. A van belonging to the village grocer was summoned - the village has no doctor, clinic or ambulance - and it took them in the direction of Ramallah. Near Bir Zeit University they transferred to an ambulance, but when they reached the government hospital in Ramallah, all Dr. Mohammed Wahdan could do was to declare Wahib dead. "A dog is better than this soldier," Wahib's father says bitterly.
"On December 14, the IDF killed one of our workers on the renovation project in Al-Dik," Bishara wrote several days afterward to the B'tselem organization. In the letter he said the soldiers ordered the workers who were on the ground to remain quiet, so that Wahib would come down from the roof, and then shot him without warning. He notes that Wahib was killed in front of his father, calling it a murder in cold blood. Bishara writes that Wahib did not try to run away, and died before he could receive medical treatment. He also says that the other workers said that the soldier who killed Wahib recognized him, since two days earlier he had gone into his home in search of his brother, and that they could identify the soldier. We at REVAC, Bishara wrote, ask B'tselem to sue, on our behalf, the soldier who committed the crime, the officer responsible and the IDF. We are willing to put at your disposal all relevant information.
The IDF Spokesman said this week: "On December 14, Palestinians threw rocks and cement blocks at an IDF force in Al-Dik, southeast of Qalqilyah. An IDF force that was combing the area noticed a Palestinian holding a cement block that he intended to throw at the force from a high spot, thus endangering the lives of the soldiers. The force fired in his direction and identified a hit. The force began giving medical treatment to the Palestinian, while at the same time Palestinians were continuing to throw rocks at the force. When the Red Crescent ambulance arrived, the force transferred the wounded man to the care of its medical team. An investigation by the IDF indicates that the soldiers acted in accordance with orders and procedures in order to protect their lives."
Munira, Wahib's widow is baking bread in a taboun oven in the yard of the family home. She is dressed in black. Her children run about, barefoot: Useid, 6, Asil, 5 and Sali, 3. Wais is six months old. All orphans now. We walk down the street toward the old building. We see the sign announcing the Swedish renovation project. The soldiers must have stood here before they entered the compound.
The father describes his son's last moments. He mixed the plaster and loaded the mixture into two buckets. He was standing at the top of the stairs and then fell. "Even if Wahib was holding a rock, they could have shot him in the leg," his father says. "But to kill him like a cat? Like a mouse? Let the head of the Central Command come and see what his soldiers are doing. May God take the soldier who killed my son. They say there's democracy in Israel. They say it's good. But this is no human being, this dog, this soldier. Someone said the soldier's name is Asaf, but he's not a human being, not at all, not at all."
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