He lies on an iron bed in the living room of his home in the West Bank town of Asira ash-Shamaliya, a white fluorescent light illuminating the large black skullcap atop his head. The cap conceals a fresh scar with 42 stitches arcing across his skull. There is also a deep wound on his brow, above his right eye, covered with a bandage. He is still frail: He has difficulty rising from the bed, and speaking is also a strain for him.
Mohammed Jarara is the victim of a hostile act, a casualty of terror. At the beginning of the Sukkot holiday, three Israelis – settlers or their guests – ambushed the car he was in, stopping it and hurling stones into it. A large stone hit Jarara’s head from just a few meters away, seriously injuring him. This week, he returned home after two operations on his head and some 10 days in a hospital.
Jarara, a 29-year-old bachelor, is a policeman in the Palestinian National Security Forces; a week of service on his base alternates with a week at home. For many years, his father has been ill with Parkinson’s disease and Mohammed has been helping to support the family; there are four brothers and four sisters. Their small town is situated not far from Nablus, and the road to it passes through olive groves where the harvest began this week. The harvest is a family event in the West Bank: Everyone comes to help – climbing ladders, hitting the trees with sticks and shaking their branches to make the olives fall onto the plastic sheeting spread out on the ground.
On October 5, Jarara was a passenger in a car, returning to his base in Bethlehem after attending a friend’s wedding in the village of Bruqin, near Jenin. Together with him were two of his colleagues from the security services, Thair Abeidi, 43, and Ghassan Qasrawi, 23. Just after 9 P.M., they left the wedding and headed back to their base. They were traveling in Qasrawi’s car, a white 2010 Kia, and Qasrawi was driving. Abeidi was sitting next to him and Jarara was in the back, on the right-hand side, with the adjacent window open. The three were in a good mood. For Jews, that evening marked the end of the first day of Sukkot.
Just before the junction for the entrance to the settlement of Shiloh, on Highway 60, they saw from afar three figures standing by the roadside. One of them was turning a flashlight on and off to signal them to stop. Convinced it was an ad hoc army or police roadblock, they hastened to slow down. Abeidi related what happened next to Salma a-Deb’i, a field researcher from the human rights organization B’Tselem.
“At approximately 9:45 P.M.,” Abeidi said, “we reached the area of Shiloh. About 500 to 800 meters (1,640 to 2,625 feet) from the intersection that leads into the village of Turmus Ayya, I saw the flare of a handheld flashlight and a number of people standing by the roadside. We were about 50 to 80 meters away and I figured they were police or soldiers. I asked Ghassan to slow down. We were going at about 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour and he did indeed slow down.
“I was surprised to see three people in civilian clothing, one of them holding the flashlight. The other two threw stones at us. We were just a few meters away from them. One stone broke the window next to me. The other hit Mohammed. I heard Mohammed scream and I realized he had been hit. I turned to look at him and saw his face was covered in blood. I used a jacket that was lying on the back seat to stop the bleeding. I was surprised at the extent of the injury. He had a deep gash in his head. The stone had smashed into him directly. His window had been open and so he took a direct hit from the stone. He was screaming and groaning in pain and said he was about to die. I tried to calm him down, but I was really scared for him.”
The driver, Qasrawi, told B’Tselem: “One stone hit the side window on the right side of the car and sounded like an explosion inside the car. I heard Mohammed screaming in the back seat. I asked: ‘What happened to you?’ He said, ‘My eye has exploded.’ I looked at him and saw blood covering his face. I went crazy and drove really fast to get away from the settlers. I looked in the mirror and saw a number of settlers on the right side of the road, who looked as though they were trying to avoid being seen. The settlers have grapevines in this area.”
From his bed, Jarara gave a similar description of how events unfolded: They were driving, they saw some figures – one of them, he says, was wearing a white shirt and a large skullcap, with long earlocks dangling on his cheeks. All three settlers were standing behind the railing alongside the road; they looked like they were 16 or 17 years old. He did not see any weapons in their possession.
They slowed down the car, at which time the stone hit Jarara in the head. He did not lose consciousness, but there was a lot of blood streaming from his head. His brother, Imad, shows us a photo showing the stone on the back seat after it hit Mohammed. It is larger than a fist. Imaging from the hospital shows the damage done to the front of his skull, part of which was crushed.
Qasrawi accelerated immediately and sped in the direction of the village of Turmus Ayya, where he stopped at the local clinic, which is run by the Palestinian security services. After being given first aid, Jarara was taken by ambulance to the government hospital in Ramallah. After his superior officers intervened, Jarara was transferred that same night to the private Istishari Arab Hospital in the city, where there are doctors who specialize in neurosurgery.
For his part, Abeidi contacted the regional commander of the national security service, Riyad Salahat, and reported the incident to him. He also called Dr. Rassam Abu Rabia,who is in charge of the military medical services, and told him about Jarara’s head injury; it was Abu Rabia who arranged the transfer to Istishari.
Jarara’s family only heard about the injury the following morning from his security service colleagues, and his siblings rushed to the hospital in Ramallah. However, that was the day of the settlers’ Sukkot race, which the Palestinians call a marathon, and Highway 60 was closed to traffic. The drive to the hospital took nearly two hours, via side roads, instead of the usual 40 minutes. Jarara was in the intensive care unit when they arrived and they were not allowed to see him. The next day, he had two operations on his head: A number of bones in his skull had been smashed and a metal plate was implanted in his forehead.
Jarara’s two companions in the car filed a complaint the next day with the Palestinian liaison command in Beit El, to be sent on to the Israel Police. They noted that the Shiloh junction is covered by many security cameras. After filing the complaint, they are yet to hear anything, and no one in the Israel Police has taken evidence from the three men.
Shai Police District spokeswoman Shlomit Bakshi did not respond when asked early this week by Haaretz whether the police had launched an investigation into the incident.
When we visited Jarara’s home this week, a delegation from the Asira ash-Shamaliya Municipality visited, headed by Mayor Hazem Yassin.
“He has worked with me for a long time,” Abeidi told us, “and he is like a brother as well as a friend. We could all have been killed, and not just him. The people who did this were trying to kill. If the driver had been injured, all of us would have died.”
Insofar as is known, the Israeli media has not published anything about the incident: Apparently, it’s of no importance and not interesting to Israelis.
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