Bil'in Eyewitnesses: Woman Killed by Tear Gas Wasn't Protesting

An investigation carried out by Haaretz, with the help of a number of eyewitnesses, concluded Abu Rahmah stood about 100 meters from her home, watching the protest.

Avi Issacharoff
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Avi Issacharoff

The Palestinian woman who died last weekend from smoke inhalation was indeed hurt by tear gas in Bil'in, according to new evidence provided to Haaretz. The evidence has also made it clear that the woman, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, had been standing near youths throwing stones at Israeli soldiers on Friday.

This new information runs contrary to claims made in the media, which are allegedly based on military sources.

An investigation carried out by Haaretz on Monday, with the help of a number of eyewitnesses, has concluded Abu Rahmah did not participate in the main procession of the weekly demonstration against the West Bank separation fence, but instead stood about 100 meters from her home, watching the protest.

Two teenagers, Aslam and Ilham Fathi, said they were with Abu Rahmah when she was injured.

Jawaher Abu Rahmah.

"I met with Jawaher at the entrance to the home of Abu Hamis [an uncle]," Aslam said. "She was speaking with her cousin, who is getting married. She suggested we go watch the procession, which was far from us, and we moved closer to the kids who were throwing stones at the army. The soldiers were quite far away, but they fired large amounts of gas and stinky water.

"Her mother called her to come back and I also thought it was enough. I didn't want us to go through what happened to Bassem," he continued, referring to Abu Rahmah's brother, who was killed at a protest in Bil'in in 2009.

"But the gas reached us. She was about half a meter from me. There was a lot of gas and I covered my eyes. I didn't see her until Ilham called to me, saying 'Come quickly, help me lift Jawaher.' She managed to call out, 'Call Samir [her brother] to take me to hospital. I'm going to die,'" Aslam said.

Ilham, on the other hand, says she was on the roof of Abu Rahmah's house when the incident occurred. After a cloud of gas approached them, she said, she climbed down and went into the house to close the windows.

"As I closed one of the windows, I saw [Jawaher] lose consciousness because of the gas, and I ran to her with Aslam to take her away," Ilham said. "We lifted her together and carried her to the yard of my house. We called for help and she began to vomit. She had foam on her mouth."

The teens said they then called Abu Rahmah's brother Samir, but that he could not find an ambulance. He then called his elder brother, Ahmed, who was in the procession. There were reportedly two ambulances there and he took one of them to the spot where Jawaher was lying.

According to Ahmed and Samir Abu Rahmah, who on Monday described the scene to Haaretz, their sister Jawaher was still alive and conscious at that point. She waved her hands to indicate that she needed air and told them that she was going to die. They said she then vomited and that foam covered her mouth.

Subhiya, Jawaher's mother, relayed the same version of events to the village committee.

According to Saher Basrat, the ambulance driver who evacuated Jawaher Abu Rahmah from the scene, "I picked up Jawaher at the entrance to the path close to the [separation] fence, where the demonstration had taken place. She was partially conscious, responded to questions and said that she was being choked by the gas. I took her to the hospital immediately."