At Death Square, Israeli Forces Kill Two Palestinians: An Assailant and a Bystander

The soldiers did not shout at the panicked van driver to stop before they began shooting, killing Adnan Mashni, a teenager on his way to physics class.

Eyid Mashni mourns his son Adnan.
Alex Levac

He was on his way to a class in physics. Hoping to improve his high-school matriculation scores, Adnan Mashni had enrolled in an extra-curricular course in physics, being held in a room in his school during the current semester break in the West Bank. Here’s the physics notebook he was holding when he was shot to death, although he had done nothing wrong. The yellow notebook was found in the taxi he had just entered on the way to class, when he was killed by the troops. The driver brought it to the family after Adnan’s death at the age of 17, at the Beit Anun junction near Hebron on January 12.

“Death square” is what local residents call the site, because of the large number of Palestinians who have been killed there by the Israel Defense Forces in the wake of attempted attacks. It’s on Highway 60, southeast of Hebron, roundabout with concrete blocks on which Israeli flags have now been painted. Apparently, Beit Anun, too, is ours, from here to eternity.

There’s no passage westward or eastward, yellow iron gates seal off the roads that branch off from the junction, thus preventing traffic between Hebron and the neighboring towns of Beit Anun, Sa’ir and Shuyukh. Passengers these days get out of one shared taxi or van, which usually hold 10 people, pass through one of the gates, cross the busy highway by foot and get into another multi-passenger vehicle, just as they did during the second intifada. We too had to drive around in circles, via Bani Na’im and Sa’ir, a distance of some 15 kilometers, to reach Shuyukh, the dead teen’s hometown, which is across the road but to which direct access is blocked by the army.

Last Tuesday, Adnan Mashni got out of a taxi next to the gate on the eastern side of Highway 60, crossed the road and got into a van, on the western side, on his way to school in downtown Hebron. It would be the vehicle of his death.

In the van was a young man of 22, Mohammed Kwazba, from Sa’ir. No fewer than 12 residents of that village have been killed while attempting to perpetrate knifing attacks on soldiers or civilians. Five come from the extended Kwazba family, including two brothers.

Just after Mashni got into the vehicle, Kwazba got out. Brandishing a knife or a hatchet (it isn’t clear which) and shouting “Allahu akbar” – God is great – he began running toward the soldiers stationed behind the concrete blocks, at the roundabout. They immediately shot and killed him. Panic broke out. Pedestrians at or near the scene scattered every which way.

Ghanem Jaabari, from Hebron, the driver of the van from which the assailant emerged and which Mashni had gotten into, tried to drive away as fast as he could, for fear that he too would be shot. The soldiers, seeing the vehicle pulling out, opened fire at it, though they had no idea who was inside it.

It was all over in a flash. The soldiers did not shout at the driver to stop before they began shooting, Jaabari later told the bereaved father.

When the van came under fire, only Jaabari and his new passenger, Mashni, seated behind him, were inside the vehicle. It stopped after about 70 meters and Jaabari fled on foot. It’s not clear if he noticed whether his passenger had been hit.

One bullet struck Adnan in the upper right side of his body, sliced through his lungs and lodged in his heart. Workers at a garage near where the van stopped quickly pulled out the critically wounded teen, who was bleeding from his nose and mouth. A taxi driver, Majdi Jaabari, who had just pulled up, took Adnan to Al-Mizan Hospital, a private institution in Hebron, where he was pronounced dead.

Just then, at 2 P.M., the physics class was starting. The teacher, Anan Daana, noticed that Adnan hadn’t arrived. He made a sarcastic remark about someone having been killed at the Beit Anun junction, but didn’t imagine that the victim was his student. It was another student, who arrived late for class, who told the teacher and students that Adnan was dead.

The bereaved father, Eyid Mashni, a retired teacher of Arabic, a man with impressive features, is wearing a red-and-white keffiyeh. He’s 58 and the father of 18 children, including Adnan. The teen’s photograph is posted on a decorated plywood plank that was prepared by his classmates and displayed in the living room of his family’s house.

Adnan had promised his parents that they would be proud of his matriculation grades, and took the extra physics course to live up to his promise. “He was the dynamo of the family,” his father says.

On the morning of his death, Adnan helped his father split logs for firewood in an open area not far from the house, and then returned home. His father asked him to bring lunch to him and his brother, Omar, but Adnan said he was running late for class. His father later had a strange feeling, so he called home – at 1:10 P.M. – but was told that Adnan had already left for school.

At about 2 P.M., a relative called Eyid and asked where Adnan was. He told the father to go immediately to Beit Anun junction. On the way he received more and more calls, and understood that a tragedy had occurred. He tried calling his son, but got no answer. Before arriving at the site, Eyid was informed that he should go to Al-Mizan. By the time he got there, at 2:45, Adnan had already been pronounced dead. A large number of people had gathered in the hospital.

Eyid told the hospital staff that he wanted to take his son’s body with him in his car before the arrival of Israeli troops, who might want to take the body away. The doctors told him that according to Palestinian Authority directives, the body would be sent to Al-Ahli Hospital in the city for an autopsy. The family received the body the next day, and Adnan was buried in his hometown, Shuyukh.

Ghanem Jaabari, the driver of the first vehicle, which the soldiers fired at, was taken into custody and questioned for several days by Israeli security forces before being released last Friday. His van was confiscated and has not been returned. The driver of the second vehicle, who took Adnan to the hospital, was also detained. He was released late the same night after an interrogation lasting several hours.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stated, in response to a query from Haaretz: “In this instance a terrorist tried to stab soldiers who were doing guard duty in the area of Beit Anun junction. The incident is still under investigation, and therefore not all the details have been addressed. The findings will be conveyed to the office of the military advocate general for examination.”

The bereaved father is now apprehensive that the IDF will cause him additional grief, possibly preventing him from visiting Jordan, as is the case with many fathers whose children are killed by Israeli soldiers.

Adnan had wanted to become an electrician, possibly even an electrical engineer. He was a tall, good-looking boy who, to his father’s chagrin, rubbed gel – called “wax” in the West Bank – into his hair. Why didn’t he want him to do that, we asked. Eyid smiled. “All the fathers don’t want their children to use wax. He was a good boy, with principles – he didn’t need it.”

Eyid then immersed himself again in video footage of his son’s funeral. Until then he had preserved a semblance of equanimity, now he wiped away tears.