Since the resumption of the US-brokered direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 29 July 2013, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Israeli occupation forces have killed forty-seven Palestinians. Israel’s latest killings took place in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank when the Israeli army raided the camp on Saturday morning and assassinated three Palestinian resistance fighters. Not only has Israel used the futile peace talks to continue killing Palestinians with impunity, it has also announced plans to construct 6,200 new settlement units since July 2013. According to a joint statement submitted by Palestinian human rights organisations to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the first four months of the resumed negotiations witnessed a 43% increase in house demolitions and a 74% increase in people displaced as compared to the same period in 2012.
What lies behind those numbers are the untold stories of the Palestinians murdered, displaced and regularly terrorized by the Israeli occupation with the complicity of the PA. Among Israel most recent victims are Moutaz Washaha from BirZeit and Saji Darwish from Beitin. What follows are interviews with the families of the two martyrs and accounts on their killings.
Months after celebrating his release from Israeli occupation jails, the family of Moutaz Washaha was forced to look helplessly on as the Israeli army demolished his home and assassinated him in cold blood on 27 February.
From the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh to the fierce clashes outside Ofer military prison, 24-year-old Washaha was regularly present on the frontlines of protests in the West Bank. He was also a member in the Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, the military wing of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Moutaz Washaha was not just a victim of the Israeli occupation, but he was also a victim of the Palestinian Authority and its security coordination with Israel. “Where was the Palestinian Authority police When the Israeli army stormed the village and laid siege to the home?” wondered Itidal, Moutaz’s mother, during his funeral. “How do they call themselves an authority when all they do is to stand by as Israel kills our sons? All they care about is staying in power, in their offices, but they only got to those fancy offices on the backs of the sacrifices and blood of our sons,” she said bitterly.
According to the Washahas’ neighbours, the Israeli occupation army invaded BirzEit, a village ostensibly under the administrative and military control of the PA, just before 6 AM, dragging Moutaz’s parents and sisters out of the house. At the time, even Moutaz’s parents did not know that he was still inside the house.
“They asked me if Moutaz was inside the house and I denied. They ordered me to call him and ask him to surrender, but I said that I did not have a phone”‘ Moutaz’ mother recalled. “They then brought me a mobile phone and ordered me to call him, so I called a wrong number and told them that his phone is closed, but they were acting as if they were sure that Moutaz was inside.”
Moutaz’s mother remained incredibly composed throughout the funeral. “I am patient. I am proud of Moutaz. My son is a freedom fighter; he is a hero. I told him when the soldiers were besieging the house: Moutaz, my beloved, if you are inside, please turn yourself in. But he insisted on remaining defiant and I respect his decision. They destroyed the house, we can build another one, but nothing can make up for the loss of Moutaz.”
Three of Moutaz’s brothers were former prisoners in Israeli jails as well. His family is used to being harassed and persecuted by the Israeli occupation for their involvement in the Palestinian liberation struggle. But what transpired on 27 February was more agonising and excruciating than anything this resilient family has gone through. After destroying and burning large parts of the house with a rocket, the Israeli army allowed firemen from the Palestinian civil defence to enter the burning house. The firemen asked an injured Moutaz to turn himself in, but he again refused, insisting that he would rather die over being detained. The Israeli army then broke into the home and fired a barrage of bullets on Moutaz from close range, in a clear act of extrajudicial assassination.
Ironically, not far from Moutaz’s house, there was a PA police station whose officers were obviously nowhere to be seen during the raid. But it’s not just that the PA security forces did nothing during the six hours in which the Israeli occupation army invaded the village, besieged the home and demolished it. Many in the village believe that the PA forces intentionally withdrew from the village because they knew beforehand Israel was planning to raid the house and capture Moutaz.
Anger against the Palestinian authority was visible during the funeral. In addition to chanting for Moutaz, mourners also chanted slogans critical of the Palestinian Authority, its complicity, security coordination, normalization and negotiations with the Israeli occupation.
Thaer Washaha, Moutaz’s brother, told Palestinian news agency Wattan that the PA refused to rebuild the family’s destroyed house because of the anti-PA chants during the funeral.
Saji Darwish was a second-year journalism student at Birzeit University. He was, according to his father, a bright student and a hard worker. “Every day after returning from university, he would immediately help me in the farm, milking the cows, looking after the animals and working the land. And he would spend the entire night studying,” remembers abu Muhammad, Saji’s father. Saji turned 20 years old on 6 February and just over a month later, Israeli soldiers killed him with two bullets from close range while he was unarmed on the evening of March 10.
Like an entire generation from Beitin northeast of Ramallah, Saji grew up watching the Zionist colonists of Beit EL build and expand on land belonging to Beitin’s Palestinian residents. Dealing with military occupation, closures, land theft, settler attacks and regular night raids by the Israeli army, resistance was a forgone conclusion for Saji as it was for many youngsters from the village. “He was not affiliated to any political party or faction, his only affiliation was that to Palestine,” said his mother, who was still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her youngest son, a week after the killing. “I knew that that they carried a huge funeral for him in Birzeit University, but I still cannot watch the pictures. It is too painful for me, but it also means a lot to know how much he was loved by everyone, by his classmates and by everybody who knew him.”
Saji’s mare, too, could not handle his loss, according to his father who reported that four days after Saji’s killing, she broke her tether and ran to the spot where the soldiers murdered Saji before going to his grave.
Saji was one of six Palestinians killed by Israel in the space of twenty-four hours. For the PA and the international community, this killing spree is solely a cause for concern because it might hamper the possibility of extending the sham peace talks. For their families, however, it is part of the ongoing Palestinian nakba and a wound that will never heal.