IDF says it regrets killing civilian in Hebron raid, but defends operation
IDF raided Hebron to re-arrest Hamas members, including senior member who assisted man who planned 2008 suicide bombing in Dimona.
The Israel Defense Forces said on Friday that it regrets the killing of a Palestinian man who was shot during a raid on a Hamas cell in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Amr Qawasme, a 65-year-old Hebron resident, was killed early Friday during an IDF raid during which six Hamas members were re-arrested after being released by the Palestinian Authority the previous day.
Medical sources said Qawasme, who was unarmed at the time, was brought dead to hospital with several bullet wounds to the upper part of his body. They said the man had been shot in a building the soldiers had raided to arrest one of the Hamas members.
The IDF confirmed that the man was "present in one of the terrorist's home." They further clarified that during the raid, they arrested Wael Mahmoud Said Bitar, a senior member of the Hamas armed infrastructure in the Hebron Region.
"Bitar was the assistant of Shehab Natshe, who planned the suicide bombing in Dimona of 2008, in which an Israeli woman was killed and ten civilians were injured," the IDF statement said. "After Natshe was killed, Bitar planned several suicide attacks that were eventually thwarted."
According to Qawasme's wife, Sobheye, he was asleep when soldiers broke into his home before dawn. She said the IDF troops brushed past her into the bedroom, where she heard several shots fired. When she went in, she found her husband in a pool of blood.
"I was praying when they entered. I do not know how they opened the door. They put their hand to my mouth and a rifle to my head," she told Reuters after Qawasme's body was removed.
"I was shocked. They did not allow me to talk. I asked them, 'What did you do?' They asked me to shut up."
Reuters Television footage showed Qawasme's sodden bed and bullet casings on the floor.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi responded to the IDF raid on Friday, calling it a "cold-blooded murder of an elderly man."
Tibi demanded that those responsible be put on trial so it would be made clear that Palestinian blood cannot be spilled without consequences.
The PA had taken the five men re-arrested by the IDF into custody in September in a campaign to detain Hamas activists after a drive-by shooting against Israeli settlers in the area. In September of 2010, four Israelis were killed and two injured in two separate shooting attacks in the West Bank.
The five Hamas members, all Hebron residents, were first held in a PA prison in Bethlehem, south of Hebron, but went on hunger strike, demanding to be moved to Hebron so that their families could visit them.
The PA moved them to Hebron after about 40 days of the hunger strike and following coordination with Israel.
PA officials said Thursday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered their release after direct appeal from the emir of Qatar.