Videos from a March 16 raid in Jenin show increasingly deadly tactics by Israeli officers
See the Washington Post article for videos and a 3D reconstruction of the March 16 Israeli raid in central Jenin in the West Bank. (Telegram/The Washington Post)
Imogen Piper, Meg Kelly and Louisa Loveluck, Washington Post, May 26, 2023
The traffic was barely moving on March 16 in central Jenin, an unusually busy Thursday afternoon in the West Bank. With the holy month of Ramadan just days away, restaurants were full and shoppers wove between cars as they hustled from store to store.
A father pushed a stroller past a silver sedan. Inside the car, Israeli undercover agents were in place, waiting to carry out an operation against two Palestinian militants who were walking nearby. Omar Awadin, age 14, pedaled by on his bicycle, having just completed his last errand of the day.
Moments later, four plainclothes security forces burst from a second silver sedan nearby in pursuit of the militants and opened fire.
Such scenes are increasingly common in the West Bank, where more than 3 million Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation and a new generation of militants has risen to prominence. Israel says raids like this one are vital to disrupting terrorist networks and protecting its citizens from attack; Palestinian officials say they are war crimes that should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Israeli military operations have long been a fixture of life here, but they once happened mostly at night, and usually ended in apprehensions. This year, under the most right-wing government in Israeli history, a growing number of incursions have been carried out during the day, in densely packed urban areas such as Jenin. As of May 15, 108 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including militants and civilians, had been killed by Israeli forces, according to the United Nations, more than double last year’s toll from the same period. At least 19 were children — including Omar, who was fatally shot during the raid in Jenin.
The Washington Post synchronized 15 videos and reviewed dozens more from March 16, including CCTV footage from surrounding businesses, some of which took nearly a month to surface. The Post also spoke to nine witnesses and obtained testimonies from four others to produce a 3D reconstruction of the raid.
The analysis yielded three key findings:
- Israeli forces killed Omar. Israeli authorities have not publicly commented on his death.
- Omar was among at least 16 civilians in the area as the officers charged down the street with AR-style rifles and a handgun, firing more than 20 shots and killing the two militants, neither of whom was visibly armed. Israeli authorities referred to the militants as “armed suspects” in an initial statement but provided no evidence to support their claim.
- One of the militants was shot multiple times by Israeli forces after he was incapacitated — an apparent extrajudicial execution that experts said could violate Israeli law.
The raid additionally appeared to violate an international ban on extrajudicial killings, experts consulted by The Post said, arguing that the illegality was magnified by the fact that the militants appeared to pose no imminent threat, coupled with the presence of so many civilians.
The raid was conducted by Yamam, the elite unit of Israel’s border police that focuses on counterterrorism operations, including raids in civilian areas.
Dean Elsdunne, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said that security forces were in the area to “apprehend terrorists responsible for shooting attacks on IDF soldiers, some production of bombs and other terrorist activities.”
In response to initial questions about Omar, Israeli police said in an email to The Post that “the subject of your inquiry took an active part in the violent riot while endangering the lives of the troops.” It’s unclear what riot they were referring to, but the visual evidence reviewed by The Post showed no such riot before the shootings took place.
The police declined to review The Post’s evidence or to respond to follow-up questions.
Previously unreported files from the trove of classified U.S. documents recently leaked online through the Discord messaging platform highlight mounting American concerns that Israeli incursions in the West Bank — including a Feb. 22 raid in Nablus where Israeli troops fired into a group of civilians — would jeopardize international efforts to de-escalate violence in the region.
One secret assessment of a March 7 raid in Jenin warned that it “will almost certainly prompt Palestinian militants to retaliate.”
Omar spent the day of March 16 delivering packages for his father’s medical supply shop. At about 3:10 p.m., he dropped off his last package at a nearby pharmacy, CCTV footage obtained by The Post shows.