The moment Mustafa Tamimi was shot and killed.
(Photo: Haim Schwarczenberg/vipdesign.co.il via Facebook)
Last Friday and Saturday, residents in the village of Nabi Saleh north west of Ramallah, held memorial events for Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi. Both were killed by Israeli soldiers during the past year. Activists exposed the identity of two soldiers involved in Mustafa’s murder.
Last year on December 9th, Mustafa Tamimi, a 28 year old resident of Nabi Saleh, was shot by soldiers a few feet away directly in the face by a tear-gas projectile during the weekly protest in the village. Mustafa collapsed to the asphalt bleeding. Although multiple eye witnesses claimed he died moments after being shot (watch video here), Mustafa Tamimi was transferred to the hospital where he was announced dead in the early hours of Saturday, December 10th, 2011.
The Israeli army began an investigation of the incident, but after a year it has led to no conclusions with no one brought to justice. The conduct and conclusions of these investigations are usual of most cases of Israeli soldiers or settlers involved in attacking Palestinians. Activists commemorated Mustafa’s death and exposed the identity of two Israeli soldiers involved in the killing in a campaign called “Who Killed Mustafa Tamimi?” According to the activists, one soldier has been identified as Aviram Boniel, the soldier who opened the back of the military jeep and shot two tear gas canisters directly at Mustafa’s face from a few feet away. The other soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Shay Ben Yshai, is the direct commander of Aviram Boniel and has therefore been identified as “a full accomplice covering up his crime” according to activists leading the campaign. See photos here and here.
Ikhlas Tamimi, mother of martyr Mustafa Tamimi, said: “My grief is doubled, first for losing my beloved son, and second knowing that his murderers have not been brought to justice. It is not only about one or two soldiers, it is the Israeli Occupation.”
A month ago, on November 17th, Rushdi Tamimi (31) was shot during clashes that erupted in the village of Nabi Saleh, after Israeli soldiers entered the village following a protest residents held against the assault on Gaza. During the clashes soldiers used extensive live ammunition bullets, rubber coated steel bullets, and tear gas.
According to eyewitnesses, Rushdi Tamimi was shot first with a rubber coated steel bullet that hit him in the back and he fell on the ground. Afterward, soldiers shot him again, this time with a live ammunition bullet which entered through his hip and into his gut. When soldiers came closer to Rushdi, they gave him a blow to the head with the butt of one of their rifles, even though he told them he was injured, and then shot him with another rubber coated steel bullet in the stomach. Soldiers then attempted to drag him through the rocky terrain instead of providing him with medical treatment. They continued to shoot live ammunition towards residents and prevented them, including Rushdi’s sister Nariman Tamimi, from approaching him and bringing him to an ambulance while saying, “I don’t care” and “it’s not my problem.” Watch the video here.
Late in 2009, settlers began gradually taking over Ein al-Qaws (the Bow Spring), which rests on lands belonging to Bashir Tamimi, the head of the Nabi Saleh village council. The settlers, abetted by the army, erected a shed over the spring, renamed it Maayan Meir, after a late settler, and began driving away Palestinians who came to use the spring by force – at times throwing stones or even pointing guns at them, threatening to shoot.
While residents of Nabi Saleh have already endured decades of continuous land grab and expulsion to allow for the ever continuing expansion of the Halamish settlement, the takeover of the spring served as the last straw that lead to the beginning of the village’s grassroots protest campaign of weekly demonstrations in demand for the return of their lands.
Protest in the tiny village enjoys the regular support of Palestinians from surrounding areas, as well as that of Israeli and international activists. Demonstrations in Nabi Saleh are also unique in the level of women participation in them, and the role they hold in all their aspects, including organizing. Such participation, which often also includes the participation of children reflects the village’s commitment to a truly popular grassroots mobilization, encompassing all segments of the community.
The response of the Israeli military to the protests has been especially brutal and includes regularly laying complete siege on village every Friday, accompanied by the declaration of the entire village, including the built up area, as a closed military zone. Prior and during the demonstrations themselves, the army often completely occupies the village, in effect enforcing an undeclared curfew. Military nighttime raids and arrest operations are also a common tactic in the army’s strategy of intimidation, often targeting minors.
In order to prevent the villagers and their supporters from exercising their fundamental right to demonstrate and march to their lands, soldiers regularly use disproportional force against the unarmed protesters. The means utilized by the army to hinder demonstrations include, but are not limited to, the use of tear-gas projectiles, banned high-velocity tear-gas projectiles, rubber-coated bullets and, at times, even live ammunition. The use of banned 0.22″ munitions by snipers has also been recorded in Nabi Saleh.
The use of such practices have already brought about the death of Mustafa Tamimi and caused countless injuries, several of them serious, including those of children – the most serious of which is that of 14 year-old Ehab Barghouthi, who was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet from short range on March 5th, 2010 and laid comatose in the hospital for three weeks. Due to the wide-spread nature of the disproportionate use of force, the phenomenon cannot be attributed to the behavior of individual soldiers, and should be viewed as the execution of policy.
Tear-gas, as well as a foul liquid called “The Skunk”, which is shot from a water cannon, is often used inside the built up area of the village, or even directly pointed into houses, in a way that allows no refuge for the uninvolved residents of the village, including children and the elderly. The interior of at least one house caught fire and was severely damaged after soldiers shot a tear-gas projectile through its windows.
Since December 2009, when protest in the village was sparked, hundreds of demonstration-related injuries caused by disproportionate military violence have been recorded in Nabi Saleh. Between January 2010 and June 2012, the Israeli Army has carried 98 arrests of people detained for 24 hours or more on suspicions related to protest in the village of Nabi Saleh, including those of women and of children as young as 11 years old. Of the 98, 31 were minors. Dozens more were detained for shorter periods. Two of the village’s protest leaders – Bassem and Naji Tamimi – arrested on protest-organizing related charges, were recognized by the European Union as human rights defenders. Bassem Tamimi was also declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, recently denounced his conviction by an Israeli military court and Human Rights Watch warned that he did not receive a fair trial.