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Israeli Settlements on Palestinian Land

Crossroads of Slaughter

By Gideon Levy
Ha’aretz (Major Israeli Daily)
July 27, 2001

The bodies of Mohammed Salameh Tmeizi, 23, Diya Marwan Tmeizi, three months, and Mohammed Hilmy Tmeizi, 17, are lain out before burial.
The bodies of Diya Marwan Tmeizi, three months, Mohammed Hilmy Tmeizi, 17, and Mohammed Salameh Tmeizi, 23, are lain out before burial.

Here’s what happened to Hilmy Tmeizi, a toothless old man from Idna, last Thursday: His son, Mohammed, was killed; his grandson, Diya, was killed; his granddaughter’s husband, Mohammed, was killed; his granddaughter, Amira, was wounded; his granddaughter, Mai, was wounded; and his daughter-in-law, Samer, was critically wounded.

On Sunday, Hilmy sat in the living room at his dead grandson’s house, his bereaved daughter-in-law weeping bitterly as she hugged and kissed a photograph of her dead baby boy. Hilmy said, in his Hebrew: “What do I say? Little people with young women going on the road, they come home to their house, they have no weapon, they have no bottles with explosives, they have no stones. Maybe the boy of three months has a belt for exploding? Maybe he is going to Tel Aviv to make an explosion? In front of their house, they are shot. This is not human. No mind can understand this. A whole family lost.”

It’s sad in Idna. A relatively quiet village, whose residents subsisted until recently on jobs in Israel, near the Green Line, not far from the Tarqumiya roadblock where the soldiers, for some reason, did not stop the killers’ car when it fled. The village is on the main route of the “safe passage” that lasted for only a few short days. Its only casualty in the present intifada was a young man shot by Israeli soldiers while sleeping at a farm near Hebron. Now the village mourns its dead and wounded from the Tmeizi family.

Last Thursday night at 9:15, at the intersection leading out of the village, a few dozen bullets were fired, evidently by two people, evidently wearing skullcaps. They killed three people, among them Diya, the baby boy, and wounded four, including the infant Amira, on their way home from the wedding of relatives. At the crossroads of slaughter on Sunday there remained only shards of glass, bits of the burned tires brought here by children from the village on Saturday as a small act of protest, and a black shoe belonging to one of the young women passengers in the death car.

Soldiers arrived and cleaned up the blood, but did not call an ambulance, residents say, to evacuate the dead, the wounded and the dying from the scene of the murder.

“This incident does not goad us into becoming Hamas. Just a black point in our heart against the settlers,” says the bereaved brother, Rizek Tmeizi. “There are people and there are half-humans and there are people who have no heart. The ones who did this have no heart.”

Rima Tmeizi cries, holding the body of her murdered three-month-old son to her body.
Rima Tmeizi, 30, underwent a long series of fertility treatments; her brother-in-law whispers in my ear that she can’t have any more [children].

An aunt of the dead baby boy, Diya, and the rescued infant girl, Rawan, bursts out crying: “You say that the Palestinians are murderers, but what did this little baby girl do, coming home from a wedding with her mother and her uncles?”

“Who will stop this black hatred?” says the mourning notice alongside the portraits of the slain and now stuck to every car in Idna.

A list of the passengers:

Mohammed Salameh Tmeizi, 23: dead. One week before his death, he was married to Mai Najib Tmeizi, 16. On Sunday, Mai was moved from the Al- Ahli Hospital in Hebron to Al-Mukassed in Jerusalem because of her condition. She was wounded in the leg.
Mohammed Hilmy Tmeizi, 17: dead. A week before his death, he finished his matriculation examinations. He was planning a party for next week.
Diya Marwan Tmeizi, three months and 25 days old: dead. On Friday there was supposed to be a traditional party celebrating his birth.
Samer Sa’ad Tmeizi, 23: critically wounded. She was shot in the back. Taken to Al-Mukassed. Her two daughters: Amira, two years old, wounded in the leg, transferred from Al-Ahli to Al-Mukassed; Rawan, four months old, survived unhurt.
Hilmy Najib Tmeizi, 17, the first to leap out of the car: lightly wounded. Shrapnel in the back.

The murder scene:

According to eyewitnesses, the murderers’ car — thought to be white, thought to be a Mitsubishi, thought to have been carrying two people who were thought to be wearing skullcaps, a car bearing yellow license plates — was standing on the main Tarqumiya-Hebron road, past the intersection with the road that leads out of Idna, facing the direction of Tarqumiya. From the Idna road, a Peugeot 305 approached, carrying eight members of the Tmeizi family. The two Mohammeds and the teenaged Hilmy were up front, the women and babies in back.

Hilmy relates that when they reached the intersection, the Israeli car began moving past them, signaling as if to enter the Idna road: “I told my uncle to drive on through the intersection, but he said they had the right of way.”

Mohammed, the driver, stopped at the intersection, yielding right of way to his murderers. The white car then flashed its high beams, perhaps to signal the Peugeot to drive on — or maybe to see more clearly how many passengers were sitting inside. Some witnesses from Idna say that the Mitsubishi was parked for a while at the intersection and that several other cars passed by, with fewer passengers than those in the Peugeot. Did the killers want as many victims as possible? Hilmy says that their skullcaps were hanging to one side of their heads. After the Peugeot drove onto the main road, the shots began. First from behind and then from the side, after the killers’ car overtook the Peugeot and its passengers began firing at the crowded vehicle — heaven forbid they should somehow miss a single infant.

In the village, they say that about 70 shots were fired. Mussa Abu Hashash of Hebron, an investigator with B’Tselem, the human rights monitoring organization, got there in time to collect one empty cartridge, which he carried with him in a plastic bag. A few dozen meters farther along the road, Mohammed, the driver, just before he died, lost control of the car. It came to rest on a big mound of rocks at the side of the road.

The attack occurred just a few dozen yards from the car’s destination, on the other side of the intersection that became the last stop on that journey of death. A white Israeli vehicle waited some distance away, observing. The residents say that they had seen it in the area that morning, coming and going.

Tabath Tmeizi lives in that house near the intersection. A young man of 33 who works for the Sugat company, he was sitting in his pajamas on his terrace on that Thursday night at about 9:15 in the evening, when suddenly he heard a rattle of gunfire. Then he heard shouting and went down to the road as fast as he could. His cousin, Hilmy, the survivor, was standing at the side of the road screaming: “They shot us, they killed us.”

When Tabath didn’t recognize Hilmy right away, the boy began shouting, “I’m Hilmy, I’m Hilmy!” Tabath says he arrived in time to see the killers’ car driving away, slowly at first. Near the street lamp a few dozen meters away, it suddenly accelerated in the direction of the Tarqumiya roadblock, which is a few minutes’ drive away (but not a mere “few hundred meters,” as alleged later by the IDF spokesman).

An army jeep arrived immediately; maybe it was just passing by. Tabath says that the jeep drove right past the fleeing car. “I ran to the jeep, opened the door and told the soldiers, in Hebrew: ‘The car that just passed you shot these people. Call the people at the roadblock and tell them to detain it.’ I was sure that guy would pick up his phone and notify the roadblock immediately. But the jeep made a U-turn and started driving back slowly.

“I ran to it, opened the door again, this time on the driver’s side, and I said to him: ‘Aren’t you sending us an ambulance? We have a lot of people wounded.’ He said: ‘Okay, okay,” and I ran back to the wounded. I took Mohammed, I put him into the back seat of my neighbor’s car and drove to the hospital in Hebron. His whole head was blown away, there was nothing left of him. Before we made it to the hospital grounds, he was already gone. He was my uncle.

“When I came back, I asked the people whether army ambulances had arrived and I’m sorry to say that the reply was no. The soldier explained to me that the army ambulances are heavy and take time to get there.

“Then police and army officers arrived and told me that they hadn’t been able to catch the car. It sped away. I told them: How could it have sped past a roadblock? You say there’s a national emergency on now? You can tell someone who doesn’t live in Israel that it sped past the roadblock, but not me. I live here and I know that anyone who passes through this roadblock, they take his ID card and check it. At night, for sure.

“The army officer, who looked to me like he really got the picture, said tome: ‘These soldiers are 18 years old. They’re kids. They didn’t know what to do.’ I told him, ‘If there had been a Palestinian cell in the car and they had blown them away, you would have said that they were heroes of Israel.’

“Very few cars go by here at night, so how can they say that they don’t even know what kind of car they had? What, the soldiers didn’t see? When I was interrogated at the roadblock that night, this one soldier guarded me. He told the investigator that he saw the car, but then the investigator told him to go outside. The next terror attack around here is going to be the responsibility of the army and the soldiers who could have stopped that car and didn’t.”

The IDF spokesman:

“In this incident, an Israeli vehicle passed through the Israel Defense Forces roadblock near the village of Tarqumiya, only a few hundred meters from the scene of the incident, before being notified of its occurrence. An investigation showed that when our forces arrived at the scene where the terror attack took place and wanted to call an ambulance, they found that the dead and wounded had already been evacuated into the village of Idna by the Red Crescent.”

The bereaved father:

Salameh, 56, who lost his son, Mohammed, is a teacher in the village primary school. He has seven daughters and only the one son, the newlywed groom, Mohammed. After the wedding, two weeks ago, the father opened an aluminum shop for his son, so he could earn a living. Pain visible on his face, Salameh stands silently in front of the pile of rocks that stopped the car. He had seen his son just an hour before he died. At night, hurrying to the hospital, he didn’t yet know that Mohammed was dead. Later on, they told him.

The bereaved mother:

Rima Tmeizi cries, holding the body of her murdered three-month-old son prior to his burial
Rima Tmeizi, 30, weeps over her murdered infant, Diya.

Rima, mother of baby Diya who was killed in the attack, sits dressed in black in her house. The women sit in mourning downstairs in the yard, the men in the diwan, the village gathering place. In the yard, the grieving women pass the infant Rawan from hand to hand: the spark, the living remnant. She was found on the floor of the Peugeot, covered in blood, which turned out to be her mother’s. Now she’s dressed in a pink-and-white outfit, a cute baby whose mother is hospitalized in serious condition, whose sister, Amira, is also wounded and whose grandmother, Aisha, is hugging her over and over again. Aisha lost her daughter, but regained her granddaughter. Rawan bursts into tears; her uncle Rizek says that Amira is even cuter than she is.

Her aunt Sara says: “It’s a disgrace. Her mother hangs between life and death, her father is dead. We want to live together, but you won’t let us live.” I cannot meet their eyes.

“In the end, you’ll say that the Palestinians did it, just as you said about Mohammed Dura [the boy crouching behind his father who was killed at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada].”

On Friday, the day after the murder, they were going to have the akikah — the traditional party celebrating Diya’s birth, with lamb and rice. The murder did away with more than a few celebrations in Idna.

The newly bereaved Rima, 30, unlike what the media said at first, has another boy, Mohammed, four and a half, aside from little Diya, who died. But she underwent a long series of fertility treatments; her brother-in-law whispers in my ear that she can’t have any more. Her baby Diya’s two Uncle Mohammeds had taken Diya with them in the car because he was crying and they loved him so much, and also because they wanted to give his mother a little rest. They thought that the short ride to the intersection and back would calm him.

The bereaved aunt, Hilmiyya, wants to ask Israelis something: “Did any thingever happen on this road? The people who did this were driven to do it here precisely because the road is quiet. They saw a calm place so they did this. In the Israeli media, they tell the public that we’re terrorists, and it’s a lie. We are people who have rights and we are fighting for them.” The bereaved father and grandfather, Hilmy: “There’s nothing to be done. Even if they find them, they won’t do anything to them.”

This isn’t like when Jewish settlers are killed on the roads?

“No, there’s no comparison. I live above the main road. Thirty years I’ve been living there. Lots of Jews pass by on this road and we had good relations with them. We are peaceful people. But they close the intersection a lot because of the settlers. When actions were carried out within the Green Line, I personally would condemn that. I am against killing innocent people. But there’s a difference between civilians within the Green Line and settlers. Why carry out terror attacks in Netanya and Tel Aviv?

“The struggle should be only with settlers who are sitting on our land. To struggle against settlers, not civilians. I don’t want a drop of blood to be shed by people in Tel Aviv. I say that from the heart. Our problem is the settlers. The settler is a disease and the government supports him.”

Someone brings in the death notice with the picture of Diya, alive, and Diya, dead: In one, he’s wearing a little red baby outfit, right here on the sofa on which his mother sits mourning his death, with a little duck by his side; and in the other, at his funeral, he is wearing a white shroud and wrapped in a Palestinian flag, his eyes closed. Rima grabs the poster next to her; she kisses and hugs it. It crumples with the force of her grip. She refuses to put it down.

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Additional Resources

UN OCHA – The Humanitarian Impact on Palestinians of Israeli Settlements and Other Infrastructure in the West Bank | July 2007

Amnesty International – Removing unlawful Israeli settlements: Time to act

B’Tselem – Land Grab: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank

Documentary – Inside God’s Bunker

Quotes from U.S. Government Officials on Israeli Settlements

B’Tselem – Hebron, Area H-2: Settlements Cause Mass Departure of Palestinians

FMEP – Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories: A Guide

Palestine Monitor Fact Sheet – Settlements

Quotes from US Government Officials Regarding Settlements

Book – Zealots for Zion: Inside Israel’s West Bank Settlement Movement

Organizations

Foundation for Middle East Peace

Israel’s Peace Now

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