Israel Defense Force soldiers of the Duvdevan unit.
Israel Defense Force soldiers of the Duvdevan unit. Photo by Daniel Bar-On / Jini
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Three brothers from the burglar-plagued West Bank village of Kafr Ramun wake up in the middle of the night and spot two suspicious figures near their home. They ask them to identify themselves, but the suspicious characters keep moving toward their house. The brothers try to chase off the intruders with sticks and kitchen knives, but the intruders open fire on the men with handguns they have kept hidden. Only the next day do the brothers discover that the two suspicious figures were undercover operatives of the Israel Defense Forces' Duvdevan unit, disguised as Arabs, who were soon joined by a large IDF force.

The soldiers fired no less than 11 bullets point-blank at the brothers; some continued to fire after the men lay wounded on the ground. The wounded men say they were left to bleed for almost an hour without medical attention. A soldier kicked one of the wounded brothers in the head. The outcome: the younger brother, Rashad Shawakhah, 28, died of his wounds and the two others, Anwar and Akram, were severely wounded.

The details of this serious incident, which happened on March 23, were chronicled by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac ("The 'burglars' were soldiers," Haaretz, May 4 ). The IDF claimed at first that three "terrorists" had tried to stab IDF soldiers and announced that it would not open a Military Police probe - contrary to the policy of investigating any killing in the territories. Only a month later, following the intervention of the human rights group B'Tselem, did the IDF reverse its surprising initial decision and the Military Advocate General ordered an investigation.

However, no one has yet approached the surviving brothers to take their testimony. The three Shawakhah brothers were law-abiding citizens who had never been in any trouble. The surviving brothers told Haaretz that if they had known that the suspicious figures were IDF soldiers, they would have quickly gone back indoors and would never have considered trying to chase them off.

The fact the soldiers continued to fire even after the men were wounded and did not give them immediate medical attention raises difficult questions. But the hardest question of all arising from the incident is this: Why does the IDF have to infiltrate a peaceful Palestinian village in the dead of night to train among its houses? These questions must be investigated quickly and those responsible be called to account for the unnecessary killing in Ramun.