Undercover Israeli special forces shot dead the relative of a patient in a West Bank hospital on Thursday during a bungled arrest raid to detain a stabbing suspect, doctors and local government officials said.
According to Jehad, Shawar, director of Hebron's al-Ahly hospital, at around 3AM on Thursday morning between 20 and 30 men arrived at the clinic in two mini vans posing as Palestinian men accompanying a woman in a wheelchair who was pretending to be pregnant. They then "held the staff at gunpoint," he said, before storming the room housing 27-year-old patient Azzam al-Shalalda, who is suspected of stabbing an Israeli settler near Hebron two weeks ago.
Once inside the room the men subdued Abdullah's brother who was keeping vigil in the room but the raid turned bad when another family member unexpectedly came out of the bathroom and the soldiers opened fire.
"As soon they entered the room they tied me to the bed. [My cousin Abdallah] was inside the bathroom and wanted to wash for prayer. As he was exiting the bathroom, one of the under cover men shouted at him to stop and they opened fire," Bilal al-Shalalda told Reuters TV. "He remained on the ground bleeding and they hit my brother on his head and took him away."
CCTV footage from inside the hospital showed a large group of men armed with pistols and rifles, some with beards and others with keffiyeh scarves on their heads, walking through the corridors telling hospital workers to get out of the way.
Hospital director Shawar said that Abdallah was hit with five bullets — one in the head, one in the chest, and three in the body — and that hospital staff were prevented from giving him medical aid while the soldiers took Azzam away in a wheelchair.
Palestinian Health Minister Jawad Awad accused Israeli security services of "executing" Abdallah. "The international community must intervene to protect our people from the Israeli killing machine," he said.
"Killing someone without any reason is an extrajudicial killing," said Shir Francis, director of Addameer, a Ramallah-based prisoners' rights NGO, told VICE News. "And it's not the first time by any means, the Israeli security services are using this policy systematically against Palestinians in the occupied territories."
The Israeli army confirmed the raid and said they had detained Abdallah Azzam al-Shalalda, 27, who was suspected of stabbing an Israeli settler near the Hebron two weeks ago but escaped after suffering gunshot injuries. A military spokeswoman said that the Shalalda family were known Hamas operatives and that a man who tried to attack soldiers was shot during the operation.
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Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency, said it "would not permit terror operatives to hide in any places of refuge".
The hospital raid comes amid a wave of violence across Israel, Jerusalem and West Bank. Since October 1, 12 Israelis have been killed in stabbing, shooting and vehicle attacks by Palestinians and dozens more injured. On the other side 76 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli security forces, including 44 alleged attackers.
Undercover operations in West Bank, however, are a mainstay of Israeli security forces operations. Unit 217, also known as Duvdevan meaning cherry in Hebrew, is the most notorious for carrying out covert missions in Palestinian territories with soldiers specially trained in carrying out urban warfare and counter-terrorism stings.
Last month Israeli soldiers wearing keffiyehs, t-shirts and jeans, were caught on camera mingling with Palestinian youths throwing stones at a checkpoint near Ramallah before drawing guns and firing shots in the air as they arrested a man. A similar incident was also caught on film in Bethlehem last week.