By Max Jones / Original to ScheerPost
On Feb. 22, 2023, Israeli soldiers killed at least 11 Palestinians and wounded 102 during and after a raid conducted in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and social media posts. In one part of the raid, The Washington Post found that Israeli security forces driving by in an armored vehicle shot at a group of civilians taking shelter between a mosque and a clinic.
The shooting resulted in the deaths of two people, including a teenager, and wounded three others, according to witnesses and a visual reconstruction event. The Post’s reconstruction of the incident shows that:
“Israeli forces fired at least 14 times from inside their armored vehicle as it moved down a street and then came to a halt next to a short wall behind which the civilians huddled. The Israelis continued firing even after those people would have been visible from the vehicle’s windows…”
The Israeli military declined to answer the Post’s “detailed questions” about the incident, but claimed that soldiers present at the shooting said that a man fired at their vehicles before running in the direction of the clinic.
According to the Post:
“The Feb. 22 raid of a house in Nablus began around 9 a.m. and involved 150 members of the Israeli military, border police and internal security service, according to the Israeli military. The operation targeted two members of an armed group called the Lions’ Den and a member of Islamic Jihad who were planning to carry out attacks against Israelis in the ‘immediate future,’ the military said. Israeli forces killed all three men during the rare daylight raid, which set off hours of violence around the city center.
“About a third of a mile from the house, the spreading violence stranded several civilians at the Rahma Clinic, on the main road running through Nablus and adjacent to al-Haj Maazouz Mosque. Among those present were the two killed:Shaaban and 65-year-old retiree Abdelaziz Ashqar. Injured were 36-year-old chauffeur Asaad Najjar, 22-year-oldMohammed Samaaneh and a vegetable seller who could not be reached for an interview.”
The Post reported that at about 1 p.m., around four hours after the raid, Israeli forces started withdrawing from Nablus. A patrol of Israeli armored military vehicles headed towards the clinic and the mosque while Shaaban, the four men, and other civilians, having read about the withdrawal on social media, rendezvoused near the street.
The Post report shares videos of the events:
“At 1:03 p.m., the bystander, standing in a clinic window, began filming the street. In the video, five Israeli armored vehicles pass by. People on the street pelt them with rocks and other objects. About 45 seconds later, more Israeli military vehicles begin to pass, the first an MDT David light armored vehicle and the second a Wolf armored personnel carrier roughly 100 feet behind. A member of the Israeli military filmed the scene from inside a vehicle behind the Wolf…
“…Audio from the videos captures two initial bangs, the second of which can be heard as a man on the sidewalk is seen extending his arm toward the passing Israeli vehicles. The videos reviewed by The Post do not clearly show whether the man had a gun or fired, and none of the witnesses interviewed by The Post said they saw a gunman fire at the Israelis…
“As the man moves through the gate into the group of civilians, Israelis shoot from the vehicle. Audio from the videos captures at least 14 gunshots within four seconds, according to two forensic audio experts who analyzed it.”
The Post also investigated the claim from Israeli soldiers that a gunman fired on the convoy by sending the audio to Lawrence Abu Hamdan of Earshot, who has conducted audio investigations that have been used as evidence at the U.K. Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, and Steven Beck, an audio forensic expert who worked with the FBI for more than a decade. According to the Post:
“Beck said he did not believe that two bangs The Post identified preceding the fire from the armored vehicle were gunshots. Abu Hamdan said that every shot heard was ‘highly likely’ to have been fired from the Wolf armored vehicle.”
After the five victims were shot, an ambulance transported them to An-Najah National University Hospital where Shaaban and Ashqar were pronounced dead about 20 minutes after the shooting. According to the Post, Shaaban was shot in the left shoulder and upper left arm, and Ashqar was shot in the abdomen.
An anonymous Israeli military official attempted to legitimize the shooting, stating, “in this case they decided the right thing to do was to thwart the threat that they faced and that’s the decision they took.”
Ori Givati, the advocacy director for Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli army veterans who oppose the occupation, however, says “it’s impossible to be accurate” when shooting from a moving vehicle and significantly dangerous to do so in a city.
“Unlawful killings have become the norm, suggesting that Israeli military rules of engagement have shifted over the past few years to permit live fire where no threat is posed to Israeli forces in complete contravention of international law,” said Brad Parker, senior adviser at Defense for Children International Palestine.
One of the nurses working at An-Najah National University Hospital during the day of the raid was Elias Ashqar, the son of Abdelaziz Ashqar, a victim of the shooting. Elias Ashqar brought medical tools to a doctor attempting to resuscitate a patient, but it was not until after the patient was pronounced dead did Elias see the man’s face.
“I knew it was my father, but from the shock I lied to myself, I told myself it can’t be true,” said Elias Ashqar.