By Tamara Nassar, The Electronic Intifada
For the first time in nearly two decades, Israeli occupation forces conducted an airstrike killing three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
An Israeli Elbit Hermes drone fired multiple missiles at a vehicle carrying three Palestinians near the al-Jalama military checkpoint in the northern occupied West Bank near the city of Jenin late Wednesday, setting it on fire and killing all three.
Israel’s army uses Elbit’s Hermes drone extensively, particularly in the Gaza Strip. But Israeli airstrikes in which Palestinians are killed have not taken place in the occupied West Bank since the mid 2000s.
The vehicle was parked near Israel’s apartheid wall in the village of Dahiyat Sabah al-Kheir, just three kilometers away from the al-Jalama checkpoint.
The three Palestinians, which included a child, allegedly stepped out and fired at Israeli troops stationed at a gate in the separation wall. An Israeli drone targeted them with missiles as they retreated back towards their vehicle, Defense for Children International-Palestine said, citing news reports.
Israeli occupation forces deployed near the site of the drone attack initially prevented Palestinian ambulances and civil defense crews from approaching the bombed vehicle, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which conducted a field investigation.
DCIP corroborated this, saying Israeli troops prevented several Palestinian ambulances from reaching the scene.
The Israeli army then allowed civil engineering crews to extinguish the fire caused by the bombing. Israeli forces pulled out the “three charred bodies” from inside the vehicle and took them away, PCHR said.
Israel withholds the remains of Palestinians killed during what it claims were attacks, intending to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations.
“Three charred human bodies were seen lying on the ground as the civil defense crew was putting out the fire,” DCIP said.
The three were identified as Muhammad Bashar Oweis, 27, a member of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group nominally associated with the Fatah party.
Suhayb Adnan al-Ghoul, 28, and 15-year-old Ashraf Murad al-Saadi, were also killed.
Al-Ghoul is a field commander of the Jenin Brigade, a group associated with Saraya al-Quds, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad resistance group. The group said al-Saadi was a member.
Pictures of the three were circulated by local media following their assassination:
سرايا القدس: ننعى الشهيد القائد الميداني: "صهيب عدنان الغول" (27 عامًا)
(أحد القادة الميدانيين في سرايا القدس – كتيبة جنين)
والشهيد المجاهد: "أشرف مراد السعدي" (17 عامًا)
(أحد مجاهدي سرايا القدس _ كتيبة جنين)
والشهيد القائد: "محمد بشار عويس" (28 عامًا)
(أحد قادة كتائب شهداء… pic.twitter.com/PRUUuFXpXB
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) June 22, 2023
“Ashraf is the first Palestinian child killed in the West Bank in a drone strike, which raises grave concerns that Israeli forces will increasingly target Palestinian children in circumstances that amount to extrajudicial killings,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish from DCIP said.
The Israeli army claimed to have found weapons inside the bombed vehicle as well.
“This was the first time [Israeli occupation forces] used their warplanes to carry out assassinations in the West Bank in about 18 years,” PCHR said.
The human rights group described the killings as an “extrajudicial execution.”
Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said its air force carried out the airstrike using intelligence from Israel’s domestic spying and torture agency Shin Bet.
The last time this kind of operation was conducted was in 2006, said Hagari.
“This is about removing a threat – we identified a vehicle that was shooting at the crossing and removed the threat.”
Hagari said the Shin Bet was still investigating the identity of those in the vehicle.
Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, praised the “targeted elimination” of the three Palestinians.
Wednesday’s killings bring to 15 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire this week alone, including at least three children.
Two Palestinian gunmen killed four Israelis at a settlement on Tuesday, following a deadly raid that left six Palestinians dead in the northern West Bank city of Jenin the previous day.
The shooting of the Israelis took place in Eli, a settlement in the central West Bank south of Nablus. All settlements in occupied territory are illegal under international law.
Israeli settlers continued on Thursday morning their revenge attacks on Urif village, the hometown of the two alleged gunmen who were killed after Tuesday’s shooting attack in Eli settlement.
Settlers set a school on fire and attempted to torch homes and a mosque in the village.
More than 100 Palestinians were injured in Israeli attacks this week, including at least 18 children and a journalist, according to PCHR.
More than 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli police, soldiers and settlers so far this year in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, or died as a result of injuries sustained previously, according to The Electronic Intifada’s tracking.