IDF Kills 65-year-old Palestinian Man During Raid on Hamas Cell in Hebron

IDF raided Hebron to re-arrest six Hamas members originally arrested after September's drive-by shootings against settlers in area, which killed four Israelis and left two injured.

A Palestinian resident of the southern West Bank city of Hebron was killed early Friday during an Israel Defense Forces raid on the city to arrest Hamas members, security and medical sources said.

The IDF raided Hebron to re-arrest six Hamas members that the Palestinian Authority had released only the day before following an intervention from the emir of Qatar.

Medical sources said a 65-year-old Palestinian, who was reported to be an unarmed civilian, was brought dead to hospital with several bullet wounds to the upper part of his body. They said the man had been shot in a building the soldiers had raided to arrest one of the Hamas members.

The man who was killed, Amr Qawasme, was asleep when soldiers broke into his home before dawn. His wife, Sobheye, said IDF troops brushed past her into the bedroom, where she heard several shots fired. When she went in, she found her husband in a pool of blood.

"I was praying when they entered. I do not know how they opened the door. They put their hand to my mouth and a rifle to my head," she told Reuters after Qawasme's body was removed.

"I was shocked. They did not allow me to talk. I asked them, 'What did you do?' They asked me to shut up."

Wife of Palestinian man killed by IDF - AFP - Jan 5 2011

The IDF confirmed the arrests and the mistaken killing of the man, whom they say was "in one of the terrorist's homes." In a statement released after the arrests, the IDF said that  Wael Mahmoud Said Bitar, a senior memebr of the Hamas armed infrastructure in the Hebron Region, was one of those arrested.

"Bitar was the assistant of Shehab Natshe, who planned the suicide bombing in Dimona of 2008, in which an Israeli woman was killed and ten civilians were injured," the IDF said.

Reuters Television footage showed Qawasme's sodden bed and bullet casings on the floor.

Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi responded to the IDF raid on Friday, calling it a "cold-blooded murder of an elderly man."

Tibi demanded that those responsible be put on trial so it would be made clear that Palestinian blood cannot be spilled without consequences.

The PA had taken the six into custody in September in a campaign to arrest Hamas activists after a drive-by shooting against Israeli settlers in the area. In September of 2010, four Israelis were killed and two injured in two separate shooting attacks in the West Bank.

Hamas' military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, took responsibility for both shootings, one of which occurred on the eve of the start of direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Washington.

The six Hamas members, all Hebron residents, were first held in a PA prison in Bethlehem, south of Hebron, but went on hunger strike, demanding to be moved to Hebron so that their families could visit them.

The PA moved only five to Hebron after about 40 days of the hunger strike and following coordination with Israel. The sixth remained in Bethlehem.

PA officials said Thursday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered their release after direct appeal from the emir of Qatar.