Israeli Army Opens Probe Into Soldiers Planting Explosives in Palestinian Village

West bank division commander had launched his own investigation in wake of Haaretz report about three explosive devices placed in Qaddum, one of which exploded and injured a local resident

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Waseem Shtaiwi with one of the explosive devices found in Kafr Qaddum near Nablus, August 2020.
Waseem Shtaiwi with one of the explosive devices found in Kafr Qaddum near Nablus, August 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

Israel's military police has launched an investigation into soldiers who placed explosives inside the West Bank Palestinian village of Qaddum last month.

The army confirmed it had opened the investigation Monday, adding that the findings will be sent to the military advocate general for review.

Haaretz reported last week that troops from the Nahal Brigade had placed at least three improvised bombs on the side of a village road, nearby where families live and residents hold frequent demonstrations.

Palestinian demonstrators gather in front of the Israeli settlement of Kedumim during a protest in Kafr Qaddum near Nablus, on July 3, 2020.Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS

Since 2011, Qaddum residents have held weekly demonstrations against the closure of the village’s main access road, which leads to Nablus. It was closed due to an expansion of the nearby settlement of Kedumim.

Qaddum is the only West Bank village still holding weekly protests against the occupation.

The soldiers hid the explosives with stones, cloths and ammunition boxes, leaving the devices primed to explode on contact.

The commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Alalouf opened his own investigation of the incident last week in wake of the Haaretz report.

Commanders within the brigade as well as the Ephraim regional brigade were questioned about the way the soldiers received permission to operate within the village. The suspicion arose that the force had placed the explosives without permission and hadn’t reported their actions. Consequently, the military advocate general, Sharon Afek, ordered a criminal investigation.

The first device was discovered by a seven-year-old boy who was walking in the village with his family. He spotted an orange box covered in wires, and his mother quickly summoned a relative, Waseem Shtaiwi, to check it out. Shtaiwi shook the box, which exploded, lightly wounding him in the face and hand.

The family found another device further down the road. This time, they threw stones to neutralize it. The box exploded in fire and smoke. After they uploaded a video of the incident on social networks, soldiers arrived to detonate a third device.

Two days earlier, near the location where the first explosive was found, village resident Khaled Shtaiwi found an improvised sign in Hebrew on a hill where soldiers are usually stationed during demonstrations in the village. The sign, in ungrammatical Hebrew, said “Keep away or die; danger of death,” along with another sentence in scribbled Hebrew.

Human rights attorney Michael Sfard petitioned the Military Advocate General on behalf of the Shtaiwis to open a criminal investigation. Sfard called on the army to investigate “this grave incident seriously, the way Israeli law enforcement authorities would investigate an incident in which Palestinians had placed explosives next to an Israeli community, which would reach the highest levels of involvement.” The army informed Sfard of the open investigation Tuesday morning.

The military said that stun grenades were left at the scene, without any additional explosives, "in an uninhabited, open area in which violent riots have regularly occurred for years."

Military sources said that the boxes were planted for the purpose of creating deterrence, while the military's spokesman said that "after it was discovered that this could lead to injuries, forces worked to remove them from the area." 

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