The security-camera footage taken from inside the Palestinian police station in Jenin leaves no room for doubt: Three Palestinian police officers are seen standing in the entrance, carrying on a conversation in the dim light. Suddenly, with no warning, one of them slumps to the floor. Sgt. Tarek Badwan was killed by an Israeli Defense Forces soldier, in all likelihood a highly trained sniper, who cut him down with a single shot fired from a considerable distance, on February 6.
Jordanian-born Badwan, who lived in the West Bank town of Azzun, between Nablus and Qalqilyah, was 25; he had a Jordanian wife and was the father of two small boys. He came from a family of police officers: His grandfather served in the Jordanian police; his father, now retired, was with the Ramallah force; and one of his brothers is a police officer in Tul Karm. In their wake, Tarek himself joined the Jenin force about two years ago – and was killed in the line of duty, or maybe it was non-duty, since at the time he was on a break from his patrolling.
The Palestinian police are perhaps the most submissive and collaborationist organization confronting Israel’s security forces. Every time the IDF invades a Palestinian city in Area A – which is supposed to be under the full control of the Palestinian Authority – thereby crudely violating the terms of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian forces beat a retreat into their stations and stay there, not so much as sticking their noses out into the street, until things blow over and the invader leaves. That way the police don’t interfere with the army troops who perpetuate the occupation with their patrols, searches, arrests, displays of force and demolitions of homes. Meanwhile, Palestinians residing in urban areas in the West Bank are for the most part left unprotected by their own security forces which, in a different, saner reality would safeguard them and their property. Instead, they are left utterly defenseless, with no one to look after their interests. That’s the vaunted “security coordination”: It’s intended to protect one side and only one.
This month, Israel “rewarded” the obedient Palestinian police by killing one of them, inside his station, where he had retreated during his night shift with other officers, following an IDF incursion.
Israeli troops had arrived that night to carry out a mission of unrivaled importance and urgency: to demolish for a second time the home of a terrorist’s family, who had the effrontery to rebuild it. The timing was astonishingly appropriate: just a few days after the publication of President Trump’s “deal of the century,” as tensions surged in the territories, and in Jenin in particular. This is what comes to pass when the settlers pressure and exhort, and the defense minister, Naftali Bennett, is their gofer: The IDF hastens to do their bidding with a reflex that’s as knee-jerk in nature as it is frightening.
The essential mission on that fateful night, was, apparently, the demolition of the home of Ahmed Kunba, a member of the squad that killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach, from the settler outpost of Havat Gilad, in a drive-by shooting incident in January 2018. Kunba was convicted of attempted murder and of plotting and carrying out several other security-related offenses. Lusting with vengeance and the desire for retribution, the Israeli authorities found it impossible to wait before ordering and executing the collective punishment in Jenin that Thursday – punishment that had been approved by Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg and by the head of IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan.
A very large force swooped down on Jenin late that night. The local police officers quickly hid in their stations, throughout the city. Along with his fellow officers, Sgt. Badwan, who had been on a patrol mission, hastened to enter the station in Batikhya Square, which boasts a large, colorful model of a watermelon (batikhya, in Arabic).
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IDF troops entered Jenin from the direction of Salem, west of the city, rumbling through the streets in dozens of heavily armored vehicles. The target of the demolition was in the Al-Basateen neighborhood, in the northwest part of Jenin. But expressions of resistance to the invasion spread across the entire city. Badwan was shot to death at 1:42 A.M. on Friday, according to the accounts of the Palestinian police. He was standing in the doorway with two buddies; the soldier who shot him was on the scaffolding of a building under construction on the other side of the square. According to Abdulkarim Sadi, a field researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the sniper was 100 to 120 meters away from his victim, as the crow flies.
For their part, Badwan’s family believe that the sniper must have been extremely skillful: Tarek was wearing a bulletproof vest, and the bullet entered at the waist, exactly at the seam between the front and rear sections of the vest. The projectile exploded in his body, its fragments hurtling in all directions, and decimating the digestive system and spine. There was no way Badwan could have survived.
His family’s home is deep inside Azzun, a spacious house in a quiet agricultural area, surrounded by olive trees; outside an SUV is parked. Spring was in the air when we visited, this week. Apart from a few Fatah banners, there was nothing to suggest that this was a house of mourning. The anger of the bereaved father, Louay Badwan, supersedes his grief. Both as a father and as a police officer, he cannot come to terms with the fact that the Israelis shot his son inside his station, for no apparent reason. He recalls several incidents in which he and his police-officer sons helped rescue Israelis who had lost their way in Nablus, Jenin and Tul Karm – and now they had killed his son. His voice rises. At one point, he cries out: “Your army will destroy you.”
At first the IDF tried to claim that shots were fired from inside the police station or that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at the soldiers. But those accounts were hastily abandoned when the Palestinian police presented video footage showing Badwan near the door with several colleagues, calmly conversing just an instant before being shot. Returning from his patrol, he still had his protective vest on and was waiting with the others for the Israeli forces to leave, so they could go back out.
Sadi, the B’Tselem field researcher, relates that shortly after the shooting, an Israeli military commander called the Jenin chief of police and offered all possible medical aid for Badwan – but by then it was too late.
Retired police officer Louay Badwan had four sons and a daughter. Two sons became policemen, another is a personal trainer in Jordan and the fourth has just completed his doctorate in economics at Moscow State University. He never imagined something like this happening to his son, he says. “I was an officer in the police force. Our task is to preserve order and security. To protect people, including Israelis.” As an officer in 2001, he adds, he protected a group of Israeli worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus from a raging mob.
Tarek was a good soul, Louay continues, well liked by everyone. All the policemen in the Jenin station burst into tears when they learned of his death. There is no picture of him in the living room, so we asked if they could bring the memorial poster with his image from another room.
Tarek was born in Zarqa, Jordan; his family moved to Azzun some years after the Oslo Accords. In 2015, he married Rasha, who is not of Palestinian descent and comes from the city of Irbid; their wedding took place in Jordan. Until she was widowed, Rasha, 26, had never visited the West Bank or the family’s home in Azzun. Now she has closeted herself in a far room of the house with their two toddler sons, Tayim, who’s 3, and 1-year-old Aram, now fatherless. She received a one-month permit to enter the West Bank as a special gesture. Tarek’s family wants her to stay on with the children, but that’s unlikely.
“No one in Israel takes responsibility,” says Louay. Asked why he thinks his son was shot, he says: “It was a message to the Palestinian Authority. It’s Netanyahu’s message. It’s the result of the way he was educated to think. Palestinian blood is cheap. It has no price. I am a security man. I saw the video. I have no doubt that Tarek was shot by a sniper deliberately. He shot him at the weakest point, where the vest didn’t protect him.” Tarek was buried in Azzun, near his family’s home, he adds, “so I can see him every day and also remember every day what the Israeli army is doing to us.”
Tarek had planned to go on vacation to Jordan two days after the shooting; he usually visited Rasha and the children for two-week periods, spending the rest of the time in Jenin. He had seen his family in Azzun two weeks before his death.
After Tarek was shot, we are told, he was taken to Alrazi Hospital in Jenin and given a number of of blood transfusions, but to no avail. Louay arrived quickly, after being called by the local chief of police. The funeral procession took place over two days, beginning at the Jenin police station and eventually ending up in Azzun.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz, in response to a query, that “the investigation has not yet concluded.”
Tayim enters the room in a red-and-black sweat suit – a neatly dressed toddler who hasn’t yet been told that his father is dead. When his grandfather asks him where Dad is, he points silently to the picture on his father’s memorial poster.