Saturday, January 8, 2011
HEBRON: Israeli army on Friday admitted killing a 67-year-old Palestinian man in his sleep in Hebron, calling the victim an "innocent civilian." The army said it was a case of mistaken identity. The man was shot as troops swooped on houses in the occupied West Bank to re-arrest five members of the Hamas who had been freed from Palestinian jails just the day before.
The dead man was identified as Omar Kawasme, with family members saying he was an uncle of Wael Al Bitar, a Hamas prisoner being sought by Israel.
Soldiers broke into Qawasme’s home and stormed into his bedroom, his wife Sobheye said. She heard shots and found Qawasme lying in a pool of blood.
"I was praying when they entered. I do not know how they opened the door. They put their hand to my mouth and a rifle to my head," she told Reuters.
"I was shocked. They did not allow me to talk. I asked them, 'What did you do?’ They asked me to shut up."
Reuters Television video showed Qawasme had been shot in the head and body.
Rajaeh Kawasme, her son, said the soldiers had entered the house while his mother was praying and his father was asleep. They had locked her in another room, and then opened fire on his father in his bed.
"They murdered him in cold blood with 13 bullets in the head without even checking his identity," he told AFP.
"After they killed him, they asked for his identity card. "They thought that Bitar lived in this apartment so they shot my father without confirming his identity."
An AFP correspondent at the scene said the shooting took place in a bedroom on the building’s first floor, with the bed drenched in blood. Bitar’s home is on the ground floor. The Israeli army admitted Kawasme had been killed by mistake by troops who were trying to find Bitar, a member of Hamas’s armed wing whom they said was wanted for his involvement in a number of suicide bombings.
"During this morning’s arrest operation, a Palestinian man who was present in one of the terrorist’s homes was killed. "The IDF regrets the outcome of the incident," a statement said, adding an investigation had been opened.
"There is no indication that he himself was a terrorist," a spokesman explained, saying the killing of Kawasme was "definitely not intentional" as he was "not a target."
"There is no indication that he was involved in any terror activity at any stage and therefore we regret the incident," he said. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the Palestinian National Authority and Israel were "equal in their responsibility" for the killing.