Date: 05 June 2009
Time: 10:00 GMT
Palestinian Security Officer and 2 Members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades Killed in Qalqilya
On Thursday, 04 June 2009, a member of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PSS) and two members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Briges (the armed wing of Hamas) were killed during an operation aimed at arresting a number of members of the Brigades in Qalqilya. While regretting such deaths, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is concerned that the internal Palestinian conflict may enter a new and serious stage in the West Bank. A similar operation took place in Qualqilya on 31 May 2009, which resulted in 6 deaths: three security officers, two members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam, and the owner of the house where the latter were harboring (for more details see PCHR’s Press Release 69/2009 issued on 31 May 2009).
PCHR’s investigations indicate that at approximately 05:00 on Thursday, 04 June 2009, a large force of Palestinian security services besieged a two-storey house belonging to ‘Abdul Fattah Shraim in the Shraim neighborhood southwest of Qaqlilya. The operation intended to arrest a group of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades. A security officer knocked on the main door and Shraim’s wife opened it. When security officers told the woman that they had a warrant to search the house, she told them to wait for a few minutes. Five minutes later, security officers stormed and searched the house and found no one. While they were leaving the house, security officers saw an old woman sitting on the stairs with traces of sand on her hands. Closer inspection revealed that she was sitting beside a covered hole leading to an underground cellar. A PSS officer, Staff Sergeant Riad Taleb Bakir Zain al-Din, 26, from Majdal Bani Fadel village southeast of Nablus, removed the hole covering. As soon as he inserted his head into the hole to explore what was beneath, at least 30 gunshots were fired at him from a Kalashnikov rifle. The officer was hit by several gunshots to the head and the shoulder and fell down on the hole. When the security force was certain that the officer was dead, a number of security officers attempted to pull his body back. They moved forward opening fire at the cellar’s hole. A hand grenade was thrown at them from the cellar, but it fell down after colliding with an iron bar, and exploded in the cellar.
The commander of the security forces used a megaphone to call on those in the cellar to surrender. At approximately 09:00, the security force brought the mother and brother of ‘Alaa’ Hisham Abu Diab, 27, to convince him to give up. The mother informed him through megaphones that she was moving towards him. When she and a number of security officers moved forward, a hand grenade was thrown at them. Soon after, security officers started to fire at the cellar hole sporadically. At approximately 14:00, security officers stormed the cellar. The found two corpses on the ground and a person lying in the corner. He introduced himself as ‘Alaa’ Abu Diab and told them that he wanted to surrender, if his safety could be guaranteed. Abu Diab was wearing an explosive belt which he removed prior to surrender. He was lightly injured.
The two corpses were evacuated to Qalqilya Hospital. According to medical sources, the two persons were killed by shrapnel. PCHR field workers were not able to determine whether they were killed by the hand grenade which collided with the iron bar and fell down into the cellar, especially as Palestinian security services denied using any projectiles or hand grenades during the operation. No eyewitnesses were as the neighboring houses were evacuated during the operation.
The two persons who were killed were identified as:
1) Mohammed Hussam ‘Atiya, 27, hit by shrapnel to the head, the chest and the right hand; and
2) Eyad ‘Abdul Fattah ‘Abdullah al-Abtali, 27, hit by shrapnel to the face.
Shraim, the owner of the house, had previously been detained by the PSS for 10 days. PCHR is concerned that pressure was exerted him to reveal the place where the targeted members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades were hiding. According to an affidavit obtained by PCHR, the PSS used torture against a detainee to provide information regarding the place where Mohammed al-Samman and Mohammed Yassin, who were killed on 31 May 2009, were hiding.
PCHR regrets these incidents and warns of the danger arising from inflammatory statements issued by both sides. PCHR stress that security services must enforce the law; they cannot be subject to political interference. All security service personnel are required to be neutral, to abstain from making political statements and to be committed to professionalism and independence. PCHR also warns of orders issued by Hamas to its members of resist attempts to arrest them, the latest of which was a statement by Abu ‘Obaida, the spokesman of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Bbrigades, that Palestinian civilian security services in the West Bank would be treated like “Israeli Occupation Forces.” PCHR believes that inflammatory statements issued by both sides increase the possibility of the eruption of armed clashes between the two parties, which would hurt innocent civilians and violate human rights.
In light of the above, PCHR:
1) Calls for a neutral investigation into these incidents the results of which should be published.
2) Calls upon all parties to stop all acts of incitement that accompanied and followed these incidents, and limit their consequences to avoid more bloodshed and to ensure the non-recurrence of the tragedies that took place in the Gaza Strip two years ago.
3) Confirms that concerned authorities have the right to arrests persons who are suspects of violations of the law, however, legal procedures relevant to detentions and house searches must be followed.
4) Emphasizes the need to have strict instructions that regulate the use of firearms by law enforcement officials to ensure the non-use of excessive force and respect for international human rights standards to preserve the security and safety of civilians.