Was It Just Some Guy Who's Afraid of Dogs?

Last Friday, April 23, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed Dr. Yasser Abu Laimun, 32, a resident of the village of Taluza, north of Nablus in the West Bank, and a lecturer in hospital management at the Arab-American University in Jenin.

Last Friday, April 23, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed Dr. Yasser Abu Laimun, 32, a resident of the village of Taluza, north of Nablus in the West Bank, and a lecturer in hospital management at the Arab-American University in Jenin.

Military sources told Haaretz that the purpose of the operation was not a "preemption." Since April 2002, "there are no preemptions in Judea and Samaria" (meaning deliberate liquidations of wanted individuals), "and there are no operations whose primary purpose is to liquidate or kill an unarmed person." In contrast to the Gaza Strip, the IDF can today get to any place in the West Bank at any time in order to capture wanted individuals. However, in the case of a Palestinian who is openly armed, the basic assumption is that he intends to use the weapon, thus placing the soldiers' lives in mortal danger. Therefore, armed individuals are shot without the soldiers implementing the arrest procedure.

According to the military sources, an IDF unit was in an open, hilly area, filled with pits and overgrown with thick brush, outside Taluza, last Friday. The goal was to arrest two Hamas activists, A'sam Fuka and Imad Jinajara (who, according to the army, are responsible for attacks against soldiers and civilians in the northern West Bank) - certainly not the university lecturer. An undercover force identified two armed men and opened fire immediately. One was wounded, but the two "disappeared from the sight of the force" (the wounded man was Fuka, who was later caught.) At this stage, the force released its attack dog, which is trained in seizing wanted individuals (by means of signs the army prefers not to divulge).

A few seconds later, the soldiers saw that the dog had attacked a man who was running, and they assumed this was one of the two wanted men. They shot and killed him. A few hours later, the sources said, a makeshift weapon was found in the bushes at the site. The IDF is hoping Fuka's interrogation will shed light on what now has no explanation: What Yasser Abu Laimun was doing in an open field and why he was running.

No one was running in a field and there was no dog: that is what Delal Abu Laimun, the dead man's widow, said. In a telephone conversation with Haaretz, she said that last Friday morning, at about 10:30, she had gone, along with her husband and sister-in-law, to the family's plot of land, which is about 20 meters from the house. Another sister-in-law was working the land, where two years ago they planted fruit trees: apricot, almond, fig and peach. Abu Laimun was carrying a package that contained food for his sister: bread, roasted eggplant and water. The couple have a 10-month-old daughter and Delal Abu Laimun, who is 21, is three months' pregnant. The plot of land is relatively exposed and has no olive trees behind which it might be possible to hide. There is only one oak tree.

No more than five minutes passed after they left the house, Delal Abu Laimun said: she and her sister-in-law were about 10 meters away from her husband when gunfire suddenly erupted from the direction of the oak tree, behind which, it turned out, soldiers were hiding. She estimates she was about 200 meters from the tree. She and her sister-in-law immediately lay down on the ground. "We heard Yasser's voice, he said `ay.' I thought he was wounded. I called his name but he didn't answer." The shooting - "like rain" - went on above their heads and she couldn't get closer to her husband. The soldiers who emerged from behind the tree, their rifles aimed at the two women, also prevented them from approaching their loved one. The soldiers went over to Abu Laimun and turned him over onto his back. She said she saw them going through his pockets. They found an ID card, examined it, and left it next to him, apparently after they realized they had shot the wrong man. The women would later discover that Abu Laimun's university employee card and his health insurance certificate, which he usually kept with his ID card, were missing.

The dog, Delal Abu Laimun said, appeared when the soldiers came out from behind the tree. No dog attacked her husband before he was killed. The shots that struck him were the first ones she heard. He was hit by a number of bullets, in all parts of his body.

Let's say the widow made up the whole story. Let's say the true version is the one given by the military. Even so, from the reply of the military sources to Haaretz (which was based on the account of the soldiers), it is not clear whether Abu Laimun was shot while running alone or next to someone else who was also running. The sources said only that "the force first saw two armed men, and afterward again saw two people, and didn't know that one of them had been replaced."

If Abu Laimun was running not far from a second running person, wouldn't it have made more sense to shoot the other person first - the one the dog didn't catch? And if he was alone, couldn't the group of armed soldiers have let the dog complete its mission by knocking down the suspect and seizing his clothes in its jaws, and then approach, see that the man was unarmed, and arrest him? Maybe it was just some guy who's afraid of dogs?