A Few Palestinians Needed to Be Killed

The embarrassment caused by the Israeli soldiers' negligence Saturday couldn't be papered over by shelling Hamas positions. More was needed

Amira Hass
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Palestinian demonstrators take cover during clashes with Israeli troops, near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip, February 16, 2018.
Palestinian demonstrators take cover during clashes with Israeli troops, near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip, February 16, 2018.Credit: \ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS
Amira Hass

In the terror attack on the Gaza border at 9:30 P.M. Saturday, two boys, 15 and 17, were killed and two others, 16 and 17, were wounded. An Israeli military force fired around 10 artillery shells into Palestinian territory at the four, who were about 50 meters west of the border fence.

The bodies of Abdullah Armilat and Salem Sabah were found by a Palestine Red Crescent team that managed to reach them only Sunday morning. Both Armilat, 15, and Sabah, 17, are thought to have bled to death after being wounded by shrapnel from the Israeli shells.

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The location, east of Shokka in the southern Gaza Strip, is known as a place from which young men hoping either to find jobs or be arrested, and thereby escape the life of hopeless poverty to which they have been sentenced, try to cross into Israel. Around 60 percent of young Gazans are unemployed, according to the latest figures. On television, and from a few high spots in Gaza, young Palestinians can see the Jews’ spacious communities, swimming in greenery, feeding the Gazans’ delusions of work, opportunities and open spaces.

Another point of infiltration, or attempted infiltration, that the Israeli army knows well is in central Gaza. Just this month, five young men who set out from there in search of work were caught and arrested. Most of those seeking to cross into Israel do so at night, like Armilat and Sabah. The vast majority, like Armilat, Sabah and their two friends, are from area Bedouin families.

The two teens whose lives were saved are being treated at the European Gaza Hospital in southern Gaza. One, whose wounds were less severe, told a researcher from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that he and his friends, whose lives were cut short at such a young age, indeed hoped to cross the fence and look for work in Israel. When the doctor told his agonized father his son would be released the next day, the father burst into tears and kissed the doctor’s hand.

Recently there has been another rise in the number of people trying to enter Israel without permission. In the face of grinding poverty and growing despair, young people have grown bolder.

“The Israeli army is odd; it’s hard to understand it sometimes,” said a resident of Rafah who is like a little brother to me. We haven’t seen each other for 10 years, but we’ve cultivated trust and a close relationship through telephone calls.

“Sometimes you can see the army is restraining itself, showing it can draw distinctions,” he continued. “Usually, if whoever the soldiers catch is younger than 18, the soldiers release him on the spot and return him to Gaza. The soldiers are familiar with this spot and know the people leaving from it are hoping to find work. They have night-vision equipment, and they could have seen the four teens were unarmed. So why shell them directly and kill them?”

You’re wrong, my young friend, it’s not in off in the least. Ever since Saturday morning, when Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded by a bomb placed on Gazan territory, both official and media spokespeople had been preparing the ground for rapid revenge. It was said that not since 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, had there been such a serious incident. The detonation of an explosive device targeted experienced, well-armed soldiers was upgraded in the media to a terror attack. The head of the army’s Southern Command, Eyal Zamir, declared Sunday that “The attack on IDF soldiers is a grave terrorist incident,” as if the targets had been young children at a kindergarten or tired women on a bus carrying their baskets back from the market. The anger broke into television programming on Saturday and kept growing.

The embarrassment caused by the soldiers’ painful negligence could not be papered over merely by shelling empty Hamas positions. More was needed. In other words, a few Palestinians who were available for the killing, who could be buried in one vague sentence in media reports, with the aid of the monopoly that we hold on the right to define what constitutes terror.