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WEST BANK: Israeli soldiers kill Hamas militant

September 17, 2010 |  9:25 am

Iyad Shilbayeh, 38, was asleep at his home in Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm Friday when he was awaken at the sound of heavy bounding at his front door.

“Who is there?” he shouted three times before he was quickly silenced by three bullets to the neck and chest.

According to Iyad’s brother, Muhammad, about 30 Israeli soldiers first came to his house in the camp at 2:30 in the morning local time. After questioning him for about 30 minutes, the soldiers ordered Muhammad to take them to Iyad’s house some 150 feet away.

“When we got to Iyad’s house, the soldiers ordered me to face the wall and keep quiet,” Muhammad said. The soldiers used a sledge hammer to knock down the front door to Iyad’s house.

“I heard Iyad yelling from inside three times ‘Who is there?’ Then I heard three shots and could not hear Iyad’s voice anymore. I called out Iyad’s name but the soldiers ordered me to be quiet,” he said.

Five minutes later, the soldiers appeared carrying Iyad’s body and took him away.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said the soldiers went into the house to arrest Iyad, who was a senior Hamas militant. The soldiers shot and killed Iyad when he refused to freeze as demanded by the soldiers who had feared that he was armed, she said. The soldiers also arrested 10 other Palestinian residents of the camp before leaving the area.

Muhammad said he did not hear the soldiers calling on his brother to surrender. All he heard was his brother yelling who was there and then the sound of the three bullets. He called the rest of his brothers who live in the camp and in Tulkarm. They all rushed to the scene to see what happened.

“When we went inside the house, we saw blood on the bed and on the floor by the bed as well as three empty shells, which mean Iyad was shot near the bed and not while trying to attack the soldiers,” said Mu’tasem, another brother. “The empty shells near the bed show also that Iyad was shot at close range.”

An hour after the incident, the soldiers turned over Shilbayeh’s body to the humanitarian group Red Crescent, which in turn took it to Tulkarm hospital. The body was later buried in the refugee camp.

Israel arrested Shilbayeh in 2004 for being a member of Hamas, a militant Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. He was released two years later after serving his term. Since then, according to Mu’tasem, his brother had started a business in the refugee camp and had not had any political activity. Shilbayeh was married but had no children. His wife was at her family’s house when the soldiers raided their home and killed Shilbayeh.

“We do not know why they killed him” he said. “He was not wanted by anyone and had kept away from politics since he was released from prison.”

Since Hamas' military wing, Izzidin al-Qassam Brigades, took responsibility for the killing of four Israelis in the West Bank on July 31 with the start of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and shot at another Israeli car a day later also in the West Bank wounding two others, it was expected that Israel would pursue with force Hamas activists in the West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, had also arrested hundreds of Hamas activists after the killing of the four Israelis, accusing Hamas of trying to undermine relative calm in the West Bank. Hamas nevertheless vowed to continue what it called resistance against the Israeli occupation forces and settlers in the West Bank.

Israel stepped up security measures in the West Bank as peace negotiations resumed at full force in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, and Jerusalem this week in the presence of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Palestinian Authority and Israel expect Hamas to carry out more armed attacks in the West Bank with a goal to disrupt the negotiations.

However, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is eager to see calm prevail in the West Bank, quickly condemned the killing of Shilbayeh describing it as “a dangerous escalation which further weakens an already shaky political process.” He said this incident and Israeli army operations in the West Bank “endanger international efforts to bring progress to the political process.”

-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

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