Did a Settler or a Soldier Shoot Dead a West Bank Palestinian? Depends Who You Ask

Israeli army, settlers and Palestinians all tell different stories about clashes that killed Palestinian

The outpost of Adei Ad, West Bank, January 26, 2019.
Emil Salman

Settlers, Palestinians and the Israeli military each released different versions of events on Sunday regarding Saturday's clashes between settlers from the outpost of Adei Ad and Palestinians from the village of Al-Mughayyir, in which Hamdy Taleb Na'asan was shot and killed.

The army believes that settlers shot Na’asan during the clashes. According to the army, the settlers used live fire, while the army only used means of riot control.

The settlers do not deny that they fired live bullets, but contrary to their statements on Saturday, on Sunday morning they said that the army also used live fire. The Palestinians affirmed the settlers' claim, but the army has denied it.

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The commander of the West Bank district police ordered an investigation, which was launched Sunday. However, residents of Adei Ad said that their civilian emergency responders had yet to be summoned for questioning. The nature of the suspicions against them is still unclear.

While the settlers place sole blame for the incident on residents of Al-Mughayyir, the latter said that they were attacked by people from Adei Ad.

There are unanswered questions in all three versions of events.

The settlers’ version

Hamdy Taleb Na'asan

The settlers gave conflicting accounts on Saturday. According to the first version, a group of hikers from Adei Ad was attacked near Al-Mughayyir and one of them called civilian emergency responders from the outpost, fearing that the Palestinians would abduct one of the settlers.

According to the second version, which has since become the official version, a settler teen who does not live in Adei Ad went to the outskirts of the Al-Mughayyir, where he was attacked by Palestinians.

The teen says that he was a few meters from the southernmost house in the outpost when he was stabbed by three Palestinians. He sustained minor injuries, he said, presenting a wound on his hand. He said that the Palestinians tried to drag him toward Al-Mughayyir, but he managed to get away and call the emergency responders for help.

The settlers said that the emergency responders identified the three Palestinians who had attacked the boy and followed them towards the village. At that point, a few dozen Palestinians had gathered at the edge of the village and threw stones.

The settlers conceded that they had used live fire. At first, they said the emergency responders fired into the air and then one of them fired “in self-defense.” They said their lives were in danger, yet they are not sure if they were the ones who shot and killed Na’asan.

The settlers said on Sunday morning that IDF soldiers and Border Police personnel arrived at the scene after the initial fire. According to the settlers, the forces used riot control measures and also fired live rounds.

The unanswered questions: It is unclear why the emergency response team left Adei Ad, because their mandate does not entitle them to operate outside the outpost. It is also unclear why civilian responders were summoned instead of the soldiers who were on duty at a guard post near the outpost.

The outpost of Adei Ad, West Bank, January 26, 2019.
Emil Salman

The army’s version

The army doubts that the teen was stabbed. In an IDF spokesperson’s statement on Saturday night, the army said that there was a confrontation between the army and the Palestinians.

The statement also said that “a conflict erupted between Israeli civilians and Palestinians in the area, in which live rounds were fired by the civilians." As far as the army knows that was when the Na’asan was shot and killed, before the army arrived. The army said "several" Palestinians were injured in the incident.

The army rejected claims by the settlers and the Palestinians that it fired live rounds and said that it only used riot control measures to disperse the disturbance that developed in the village.

The unanswered questions: Did the IDF and the Border Police respond using only riot control or did they use live fire?

The Palestinian version

Al-Mughayyir’s mayor, Faraj Na’asan, told Haaretz that a group of settlers tried to attack some of the houses in the northern part of the village. “They opened fire toward the houses and the village, and dozens of young men came out who were hit by settler fire.” After the settlers attacked them, the Palestinians called for help by phone.

In Al-Mughayyir people deny that the settlers were attacked by Palestinians, and said that the settlers instigated the aggression. According to the Palestinians, both the army and the settlers fired live bullets. “We don’t know exactly who was struck by the soldiers’ bullets and who from the settlers’ bullets, but no doubt some people were wounded by bullets from the settlers, who attacked the houses without reason,” the mayor said.

According to the Palestinians, the soldiers and the settlers shot at them as they fled, explaining why Na’asan was shot in the back.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah confirmed that Na’asan had been shot in the back. Ten Palestinians were wounded by live fire; three are in serious but stable condition.

The unanswered questions: How do the Palestinians explain the story of the stabbing, considering that the teen did have a stab wound on his hand? It is also still unclear what Na'asan's role was in the incident.