Palestinians Recall Settlers Dressed in White Firing at Them, as Soldiers Stood By

One witness recalls 10 to 15 settlers firing their guns, while another remembers Hamdy Na'asan being fatally shot in the back as he went to help the wounded

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Hamdi Na’asan on January 27, 2019.
Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Hamdi Na’asan on January 27, 2019. Credit: ABBAS MOMANI / AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

From the north the settlers came, armed and dressed in white, and approached the homes at the perimeter of Al-Mughayyir belonging to the Abu Alia family. Village residents, particularly the younger ones, had already gathered near the houses; they knew the settlers were en route to the village and they’d come out to defend it.

A short while earlier, at around 2:30 on Saturday afternoon, Akram called people in the village. He and his son had gone out to plow their land, he told them – their plot is located in an area whose cultivation does not require prior coordination with or approval of the army. In other words, it’s not too close to one of the violent outposts that the settlement of Shiloh has spun off in the past 20 years. Still, vandals had damaged his trees many times.

Bradley Burston describes his visit to the West Bank with settler leader Daniella WeissCredit: Haaretz

Akram told his family and friends that settlers had approached and started to vandalize his tractor, and that he had hurried to the area’s army post asking for intervention. He said he told the soldiers that settlers had damaged his tractor, and the soldiers told him he should go to the police because it wasn’t their job to intervene. He and his son realized that the soldiers wouldn’t protect them, so they ran as fast as they could to the village to report that the settlers were approaching.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hamdi Na'asan during his funeral.Credit: AFP

Mahmoud, 50, is a cardiac patient and therefore did not join the residents who ran toward the houses at the village’s edge. He stood on the hill to the south, watching from a few hundred yards. He saw the white-clad settlers emerging from a dense green strip of trees on the opposite crest. They were between 10 and 15 of them, he told Haaretz on Sunday. He remembers that the settlers fired their guns while they were walking.

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They marched like soldiers, in a neat row. He also saw soldiers positioned on the roof of a house. They fired into the air and fired tear gas canisters at the road, toward the village residents who were making their way to protect the village’s homes and residents.

The settlers came closer. At one point they were joined by soldiers who came up from the valley. The village youths threw stones at the settlers so they would not come near. The settlers fired precise shots. The youths hid behind some terraced ground. The settlers came closer.

Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli troops at Palestinians during clashes after the funeral of Hamdi Na'asan in al-Mughair village near the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 27, 2018. Credit: Majdi Mohammed,AP

One of the first to know what was taking place was Faraj Na’asan, head of the Civil Liaison Committee in Jericho (which is in constant contact with the Israeli district coordination and liaison office). He is always called when there are problems with the settlers. He was at home that afternoon and rushed to the Abu Alia homes. That was at about 3:30. He was joined by his nephew, Hamdy Na’asan, and his own son.

Hamdy, 38, was still dressed in his work clothes; he’s a bricklayer. That morning he was still in Kafr Malak, where he agreed on a price to work on another building. He had spent seven years in an Israeli prison – “for being a Palestinian,” Faraj said – and was released in 2009. He has four children, the youngest of whom turned one last week.

Faraj and Hamdy Na’asan were standing next to the home of Musa Abu Alia. From where he stood, Faraj saw three armed settlers marching in the exposed area, among the rocks, and next to them were three soldiers. They were about 70 meters from the villagers who had come out to defend the homes. The soldiers, he says, fired bursts into the air. Two of the settlers next to them fired their guns at the people. He remembers one Uzi submachine gun and two M-16 rifles. They fired separate shots, but they were accurate. One shot hit the large water tank on the roof of the house. The water burst out, near Faraj. There was a shout that someone was wounded. Hamdy ran to the first wounded man to rescue him. He took him to a taxi belonging to a member of the Abu Alia family.

Then they heard shouting that there was another man hit by gunfire. Hamdy ran to rescue him too, Faraj said. By then it was 4:30. Hamdy bent to the ground, and when he began to rise, he too was shot. In the back, Faraj says. While they tried to take Hamdy to an ambulance, the soldiers on the roof fired tear gas canisters at the road.

“I called the army and the DCO, to say we could not rescue the wounded because of the tear gas,” Faraj said. Twelve wounded people arrived at the hospital in Ramallah, some shot in the stomach and others in the legs. Hamdy was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Early Sunday morning, soldiers returned to the scene of the shooting and collected the bullet casings, a 10-year-old boy from the Abu Alia family told Haaretz. At 10:30 A.M., hundreds of people were gathered near Hamdy's house, waiting silently for the body. Young men took it out of the ambulance and brought it into the house so the women could take their leave of him.

Crying and sobbing came from the house and from the surrounding courtyard, while the young men shouted, “Why be afraid,” and “We live under army fire.” From there, the young men carried the dead man to the center of the village for the afternoon prayer that took place in front of a banquet hall. Hundreds of villagers and residents of neighboring villages marched in silence and did not shout slogans with the young people.

The usual slogans about resistance and steadfastness featured in the speeches made at the cemetery. When most of the mourners left, one of the deceased’s brothers brought their mother to the fresh grave. “Don’t cry,” he said to her, as he embraced his weeping mother. “He’s now with God, in a world that has no end.” Some youths wearing kaffiyehs around their necks remained at the grave, which was covered with wreaths. They sat sobbing on the ground and on the gravestones.

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