Eyewitness accounts and hospital reports suggest Ismail Tubasi was brutally attacked with sharp objects in a West Bank village as he attempted to put out a fire set by Jewish settlers.
Ismail Tubasi, a 27-year-old Palestinian man, was killed in southern Hebron in the Israeli occupied West Bank on May 14.
Citing witness accounts and local hospital reports, the Tel Aviv-based +972 magazine reported that a group of Israeli settlers first killed him with a gunshot and then mutilated his face with sharp objects.
Local Call, a Hebrew-language news platform, first reported the incident saying that evidence gathered suggests the killing may have taken place under the watch of Israeli soldiers.
The incident took place when settlers set the agricultural fields and trees on fire in al Rihiya town. Eyewitnesses claimed Tubasi, alongside other locals, rushed to the fields to extinguish the fire. A group of about 50 settlers carrying guns, axes and batons began shooting at them, killing Tubasi on the spot. They also beat up the villagers.
Tubasi's nephew, who was among the witnesses, said he feared for his life and fled the scene after seeing his uncle be wounded.
Tubasi was taken to Shaheed Abu Hassan al-Qassam hospital about half an hour after being shot, according to the media reports. Doctors noticed fresh and deep wounds on his face and it appeared as if his face had been stabbed multiple times with sharp objects.
One cut was as deep as 20 centimetres, while another was seven centimetres long. The hospital report included photos of Tubasi’s deceased mutilated body.
One witness, Kazem al-Hallaq, a 62-year-old resident of Al Rihiya, told Local Call that he woke up to someone screaming: “Fire, they set a fire”. As he stepped out, the report read, he saw the army watching what was happening from afar.
Instead of charging towards the settlers, he says the army threw "gas grenades" and fired "rubber bullets" at Palestinians who were trying to put out the fire.
Israeli Public Broadcast Corporation reported that the Israeli army acknowledged the incident saying that their soldiers arrived at the scene soon after the shooting, contradicting the eyewitness accounts, which suggest the soldiers had arrived at the scene earlier than the army claimed and yet didn’t intervene to prevent the settlers from starting the fire and shooting Tubasi dead. No investigation has been initiated by the police as yet.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, on the day Tubasi was killed, Israeli security forces killed 11 Palestinians in the West Bank amid mass demonstrations across Israel and Palestine.
Settler violence in West Bank
In occupied Palestine, violence is part of daily life with settlers attacking local Palestinians, burning crops and damaging properties. Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, says investigations on those attacks are often not opened at all, and rare investigations that are opened around 15 percent of the incidents often result in no action against the perpetrators.
In one of the most recent incidents, armed settlers in Wadi al-Hasin, central Hebron, invaded a neighbourhood, pelted stones at houses, opened live fire and attacked a resident in his yard with pepper spray and large stones. B’Tselem, collecting testimonies from the attacked Palestinians, says attackers were escorted by two Israeli soldiers, as they entered a family’s house and pepper-sprayed them.
In another incident in 2015, settlers burned a family to death while they were sleeping during the night inside their house in the village of Duma.
Human rights group Yesh Din recorded 216 complaints of settler violence between January 2020 and June 2021. B’Tselem says the number of Palestinians only killed by Israeli civilians amounted to 30 in the West Bank. Israeli assailants often claim they assault Palestinians in order to scupper any plans they might be harbouring of stabbing or throwing rocks.