Ten Bullets, and She Never Got Near the Israeli Soldiers

The IDF says the young woman killed at a Hebron checkpoint last month came to commit a terror act, an accusation her family vehemently denies.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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An Israeli soldier aims at Hadeel al-Hashlamouna, at the Hebron checkpoint in the West Bank, September 22, 2015.
An Israeli soldier aims at Hadeel al-Hashlamouna, at the Hebron checkpoint in the West Bank, September 22, 2015.Credit: AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

With a matter-of-fact, almost technical tone, the doctor described the wounds from Israeli army guns that led to the death of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun, 18.

One bullet entered her left ankle and exited out the back. Shrapnel lodged in her right knee, with a broken bone and a bullet in her inner right thigh, and a large exit wound on the side. The bone is shattered.

Another bullet to her waist exploded on the left side; there is no sign of an exit wound. There is a bullet in her left arm, a bullet in the right hand and a bullet on the right side of the stomach, as well as two bullets in the chest, right next to the heart. There’s also a bullet under her left ribs, with an exit wound in the back.

And the doctor counted: all in all, 10 bullets; seven of them hit her upper body. The doctor also concluded, based on the various angles of entry, that at least two soldiers shot her. He knows from the videos and eyewitness reports that after the first shots wounded Hashlamoun, she collapsed and lay on the ground at the checkpoint separating the bustling A-Zawiyyeh neighborhood and the ghost neighborhoods in Hebron’s Old City, under Israel control.

In other words, he said, the soldiers shot her while she was lying on the ground wounded. About two to four meters separated the soldiers and the teenager, at different stages.

In that same matter-of-fact, almost technical approach, the doctor showed close-ups of the wounds, which he took with his cellphone. He reported on the large amount of blood that filled the young woman’s left lung, the damage to her internal organs and showed the signs of the operations at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in vain attempts to save her. She was pronounced dead at around 4 P.M. on September 22.

The detached tone only broke sometimes, as the doctor’s voice shook or was raised for a moment. After all, Dr. Saleh al-Hashlamoun is the young woman’s father. He described her fatal wounds last week at Hebron’s Al-Ahli Hospital. A 55-year-old anesthesiologist and former hospital director, he received his daughter’s body at the entrance of the “tunnels” checkpoint near Bethlehem on Yom Kippur eve.

The following day, he and colleagues examined the body and conducted a CT scan. He knows that Shaare Zedek doctors did all they could to save her, but he’s convinced it was already too late. He says she was left bleeding at the checkpoint for 30 to 45 minutes. When Israeli medics evacuated her, they didn’t do the first thing “that any student knows” — help her breathe to keep oxygen flowing to the brain, he claimed.

“They put her on a stretcher like a sack, just for the show in front of the television cameras,” he said.

Video by the Palestinian news company Palmedia from the other side of the checkpoint shows how the soldiers dragged the wounded teen on the ground, away from the camera’s range. The camera shows Israelis wearing kippot, some of them smiling, as well as policeman and soldiers leisurely walking around the checkpoint area. It also shows the Palestinian medical team with a stretcher not being allowed to enter the Israeli-controlled side.

According to the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Office, “A Palestinian medical team did not arrive at the scene but rather army medics and rescue forces that carried out the care and evacuation. From the moment she was wounded, she was cared for professionally by army medics within a matter of minutes, who later evacuated her to the hospital.”

Pictures of a woman wearing a niqab, the black dress that covers the entire body and face, and two soldiers, one wearing a kippa, pointing guns at her were soon released to the press. Marcel, a Brazilian who since July had lived in Hebron as a volunteer with an international organization, took the photos.

His first picture captured her at 7:43 A.M. passing through the checkpoint to the Israeli side, he told Haaretz by phone from Brazil. His testimony jibes with the testimony that Fawaz Abu Aysha, a resident of the nearby Tel Rumeida neighborhood, gave to rights group B’Tselem.

“There were two soldiers at the checkpoint as always,” Marcel said. “The soldier tried to talk to her (probably after the checkpoint’s magnometer beeped). He spoke Hebrew and then tried English. He told her, ‘Stop, stop, come back.’ Then he pointed his rifle at her, asking her to show the bag. When she tried to open the bag, he started shooting. At the same time, there was a Palestinian who intended to cross to the Palestinian side.”

Marcel said the young woman was completely quiet. “She never said anything. She didn’t shout, as if she were frozen. She didn’t understand what was happening,” he said. “And this Palestinian approached her and tried to convince the soldiers to stop shooting,” said Marcel, referring to Abu Aysha.

The man spoke to her, saying he would translate. “When he stood behind her, the soldiers fired at her again, and the Palestinian moved a little because of the shooting,” Marcel said. “More soldiers appeared. Then the young woman started to step away very slowly. The distance between her and the soldiers was three meters. She didn’t get any closer. The distance was always three meters.”

Marcel said the man then moved away, and Hashlamoun moved to the other side of the 1.2-meter-high railing and tried to move away back to the Palestinian side.

“The soldiers called her,” he said. “She turned toward them and they shot at her repeatedly, many times. I don’t know how many hit her, but they shot her many times. She fell down on one side of the railing, and the soldiers were on the other side, at which point they were two to three meters away. She didn’t try to attack the soldiers. She was frozen. She simply took the bullets. She didn’t scream, nothing.”

Marcel, who was seven meters from the checkpoint, says he didn’t see a knife. Abu Aysha told B’Tselem he did see a knife. But Hashlamoun was always at such a distance that she did not endanger the soldiers’ lives.

At 8:01 A.M., Marcel noticed that the young woman, who was lying unconscious on the ground, had came to and moved her head a little (her veil had fallen).

“The soldiers immediately aimed their weapons at her, but she lost consciousness again,” he wrote in a long, detailed report that he published on social media.

Quiet and modest is how her parents described her last week. She was an enthusiast of literary Arabic, always trying to promote its use. “We all speak the spoken language,” her oldest brother Arafat said. “She would answer in literary Arabic.”

She specialized in science in high school but decided to study Arabic at university, enrolling first in the sharia law faculty. In the three weeks before her death, she started covering her face with a veil. The family was surprised. The father tried to convince her to put the practice off until she got married, but she insisted.

She used to encourage kids to pray in the mosque, she was in touch with children from the Old City. She would walk to save on travel costs and gave the money to the needy. It’s not the first time she crossed the checkpoint to the Old City, but her family doesn’t know exactly where she was headed that morning.

“People are saying there were problems in the family,” a Palestinian journalist and field researchers from Palestinian rights groups told her parents last week. This phenomenon was kept hush in the past but Palestinians are now openly addressing it: At least some girls, some believe the majority, caught at checkpoints brandishing knives or even trying to stab a soldier are fleeing family and personal problems. Arrest is preferable in their eyes.

Hadeel’s parents deny the rumors. Yes, they are divorced, and her father remarried, but long ago. Hadeel’s mother, Raweeda, and her children live in an apartment next to the father’s home. Relations are excellent, they say. And Hadeel loved life and was thinking about motherhood.

The evening before she died, she went as usual to her father’s place. He made food for the children, and tried to get her to eat hummus and fava beans. She was so thin, 45 kilos, he said with a faint smile.

Based on military sources, the media initially reported that a Palestinian woman tried to stab a soldier. In its response to Haaretz, the IDF’s spokesman’s office referred to her as a “terrorist,” but no knife was mentioned. “On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, a terrorist arrived at the Shoter checkpoint in Hebron and tried to carry out a terrorist attack,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz, failing to say why it hasn’t released video from the checkpoint’s cameras to back its claim.

“The terrorist was wounded by IDF fire during the incident. The soldiers fired because they felt their lives were in danger after the force ordered her to stop and fired warning shots,” the IDF said.

“Because she did not answer the fighters’ calls, shooting was carried out to neutralize the threat. The claims regarding the manner of fire are being examined, and after completion of the investigation, the inquiries will be passed on to the military advocate general to decide on the matter.”

At her home, Hadeel’s mother said, “I would like to ask the soldier, face to face, ‘What did she do to you for you to spray her with bullets?’”

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