On Monday morning, the Israeli army reported an attempted stabbing attack near a West Bank settlement. But both its own subsequent investigation released later that day and conversations with three Palestinian eyewitnesses raise many questions about what happened in this incident, which began with a Palestinian family harvesting its wheat and ended with two people wounded by gunfire.
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The army’s initial statement said “an attempted stabbing attack” had been reported near the settlement of Amichai. “Two terrorists tried to stab combat soldiers operating in the area, and the soldiers responded by firing at the suspects.” The Israeli soldiers were not hurt, the army said.
But the army’s preliminary investigation produced a different picture. It concluded that a verbal spat had erupted between a Palestinian family harvesting wheat and settlers living in the area. Amichai’s security coordinator came to the scene and argued with the Palestinians until eventually deciding to call the army. He also ordered the family not to leave before the soldiers came.
When soldiers from the Kfir Brigade got there, the probe found, the settlers had already left. The soldiers asked the Palestinians to identify themselves, but they refused, saying the settlers had come to their field, and they wouldn’t cooperate unless the army also questioned them. The soldiers argued with them and demanded that they sit down.
At this point, according to the army, the soldiers saw the father of the family and another relative approaching, carrying sickles. The soldiers fired in the air and sprayed them with tear gas.
Both fell down, but recovered and got up again. Yet even while they were down, the soldiers didn’t take their sickles.
According to the soldiers, the two men then approached them again, so they shot at them, hitting one in the leg and the other in the stomach. The soldier who hit the second man said he aimed for the legs, but the Palestinian bent over and was therefore hit in the stomach. Both men suffered light to moderate injuries.
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But one of the wounded men, Murad Abu Alia, along with three eyewitnesses told Haaretz a different story. Murad, who was hospitalized in Ramallah, said he was harvesting wheat on his own land, between the villages of Al-Mughayyir and Turmus Ayya, together with his brothers, wife and children.
Suddenly, a white pickup truck drove over, containing both soldiers and security personnel from the settlement, then a few soldiers got out.
“They started approaching us while telling us to sit down immediately,” Murad said. “And then they shot three bullets at my brother Imad’s left leg. I went a little nearer and asked them to stop shooting him, and then they shot me in the stomach.”
Murad’s wife added that contrary to the army, the incident occurred far from Amichai. “We were on our land, far from the settlement, and they came to us, not us to them,” she said.
Another witness said, “To claim that he tried to stab a soldier while his wife and children and his whole family were there? It never happened. They’re trying to justify the shooting.”
Murad’s brother Nadal agreed. “The claim that they tried to attack with a sickle is a lie,” he said. “Someone who wanted to wound and stab wouldn’t come to the area with his wife and young children. They were attacked for no reason, just because they were working their land.”
He too said the land is far from Amichai, adding that there are no restrictions on Palestinians working there.
The Wafa news agency also quoted an anti-settlement activist, Kathem Haj Mohammad, as saying a group of settlers opened fire on the two sheep herders.