Basel Ibrahim went to watch the clashes between Israeli soldiers and a group of masked young people near his home outside Jerusalem. An army sniper shot him from a distance of 200 meters and killed him
Basel Ibrahim. Credit Alex Levac
Two Israel Defense Forces snipers climbed the hill opposite the house. At a range of 200 meters, they aimed their rifles at the masked young people who were throwing stones at the soldiers further down the road, next to Abu Khalil’s gas station at the entrance to Anata, in northeast Jerusalem. The young people, of whom there were about 10 according to witnesses, took shelter behind the low stone wall of the Alimani Marble and Granite factory. It is the last building before the separation barrier, which winds along the edge of this West Bank town. Also taking shelter behind the fence was Mahmoud Elian, a local journalist who was there to document the events.
Only Basel Ibrahim, 29, who worked in a scrap metal warehouse, remained standing, exposed to the snipers. He lived nearby and had gone outside, apparently to see what was going on. Without hesitation, the snipers shot him. One bullet smashed into Ibrahim’s body at the waist and exited from the rear of his chest, shattering his internal organs and hurtling him to the ground, his mouth spurting blood. The reddish stains are still visible on the marble fragments lying on the ground.
The birds chirp quietly in their cages in Ibrahim’s home, a few dozen meters from the site of the shooting. The house is empty. Ibrahim’s widow, Dalia, and their 4-year-old son, Adam, are far away, in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, with her family. Ibrahim is buried in the Anata cemetery. Only the feeble twittering of the songbirds breaks the almost palpable deadly silence that pervades the deserted home.
The bereaved mother, Hana, 60, lives on the floor above. Ibrahim’s father died of an illness about 10 years ago. The son’s apartment is new and glistening. It has a living room, a bedroom and a bird room – filled with cages in which songbirds dart about. Photographs of little Adam are pasted on the walls between the many cages. The couple had separated a few months ago, and Dalia returned to her parents’ home in Jenin. The background to the separation was Ibrahim’s wish to take a second wife, a relative from Anata. He’d already planned the wedding, which was set to take place soon. Since breaking up with Dalia, he’d gone to Jenin every week to pick up Adam, who would stay him Thursdays through Saturdays.
He had done the same two weeks ago. On that Thursday, December 14, he brought his son home to Anata; the next day, Friday, he was shot by a sniper outside the house. Adam was inside at the time, with his grandmother. He didn’t see his father collapse, blood pouring out of him, next to the marble factory behind their house.
The bird room in the home of Basel Ibrahim. Credit Alex Levac
This week, four armed IDF soldiers – three men and a woman – in protective gear from head to foot, were again perched on the hill that overlooks the entrance to Anata, keeping an eye on the road leading into town. Anata is strewn with scrap metal from cars and with mounds of garbage. Ibrahim’s house, too, lies between heaps of automobile skeletons. He’d been arrested twice in the past and sentenced to a few months in prison each time for throwing stones and other activity carried out as a member of the Fatah organization. He was released a few months before the end of his first jail term as part of the so-called Shalit deal in 2011, in which a captive IDF soldier was exchanged for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Last year Ibrahim was incarcerated again for a few months.
After he married, according to people who knew him well, Ibrahim decided to stop his activities and focus on his family – but was rearrested nevertheless. Now a group of somber men, relatives and friends, have come to his mother’s home to mourn him. One of them is Jamal Faraj, a local man, whose son, Wissam, was killed in clashes with the army in 2015, in the nearby Shoafat refugee camp.
On that fateful day two weeks ago, Ibrahim visited his aunt with his son. Afterward, he prayed in the mosque. He returned home around noon. Outside, the clashes had begun. He left the house again at about 3:45 P.M., after asking his mother to look after Adam and to keep him from going outside.
According to his brother, Hisham, 43, Basel went to bring tea to his friends in the marble factory. Hisham himself was at a wedding in town when a friend phoned to inform him that his brother had been shot and seriously wounded.
The clashes continued as Ibrahim arrived at the marble factory. Journalist Elian had in the meantime arrived by car and met Ibrahim, who was a friend. Elian decided to move his car, so it wouldn’t be struck by gunfire or by stones. In testimony he gave to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, through its field researcher Amer Aruri, Elian related that he and Ibrahim initially stood some 300 meters from the site of the clashes. The young people afterward retreated in the direction of the marble factory, until they were standing at the entrance near Elian and Ibrahim.
“The clashes were not very violent,” Elian recalled in his testimony. “Very few took part – around eight to 10 masked people. They could have been dispersed with teargas or stun grenades. The security forces used live fire.”
Suddenly Elian saw two soldiers climbing the hill opposite the marble factory, about 200 meters from where he was standing with Ibrahim: “They aimed their weapons at the place where we were, and then I heard a sound, like something smacking a wall, I think it was the sound of bullets. The masked people and I hid behind the wall. Basel was the only one who didn’t hide. Afterward there was massive gunfire.
“When Basel heard the noise of the shooting, he crouched low to the ground to protect himself. Then I saw him fall on his chest. He tried to get up but couldn’t. He fell again. I went over to him, and, together with two of the young people, picked him up and headed for my car, which was about 30 meters away. The firing died down after Basel was wounded.”
In the car, Basel started vomiting blood. “My children are now your responsibility,” he said to Elian, and then spoke no more. At a local clinic, the medical team tried to revive him and staunch the blood spurting from the hole in his chest with stitches. A Palestinian ambulance that was summoned to the scene was delayed for 20 minutes because of the confrontations in Anata and in nearby Qalandiyah. In the meantime, Hisham arrived at the clinic, to find the staff working on his brother.
According to Elian, the paramedic in the ambulance suggested that he take Ibrahim to the hospital in his car, because the soldiers at the checkpoints were delaying the ambulances. But the staff at the clinic objected, saying that Ibrahim’s serious condition demanded an emergency medical vehicle. A Red Crescent ambulance set out to take Ibrahim to Al-Mukassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, which is much closer to Anata than the Government Hospital in Ramallah – seven kilometers to the former, 28 kilometers to Ramallah.
At the Hizma checkpoint, the ambulance was stopped by Israeli guards and soldiers. Even after they checked the vehicle and saw the bleeding, unconscious patient inside, they refused to allow the vehicle to continue. The ambulance turned around and made for Ramallah. It’s not clear whether Ibrahim was still alive at this point. A few minutes before 5 P.M. they arrived at the ER of the Ramallah hospital, where Ibrahim was pronounced dead.
“The IDF wanted a dead Arab,” Ibrahim’s uncle, Ekthan Hilo, says now. Another uncle, Mahmoud Hilo, adds, “It’s not a government of Jews, it’s a government of settlers.” Both are convinced that the soldiers killed their nephew deliberately. They recall that after Ibrahim’s previous arrest, in 2016, his interrogators told him that the next time they would kill him – which is enough for the uncles to be sure he was gunned down maliciously.
Asked for comment, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit provided Haaretz with the following statement this week:
On Thursday, December 15, 2017, adjacent to Anata village, a violent disturbance developed among some 30 Palestinians, during the course of which tires were burned, and stones were thrown at IDF forces. An IDF force was obligated to respond with various means.
From the investigations carried out to date, it has not been possible to determine that the Palestinian was killed by IDF fire. The event is now being evaluated as well by the Military Advocate General’s office.
As opposed to your claim, the Hizma checkpoint remained open throughout the day. We are not familiar with the claims regarding the delay of medical services.
Ibrahim’s Honda is parked in front of the house. The people inside are proud of the fact that he had a car. No one is crying here. Across the way on the separation barrier – which is a low, concrete structure here, gray and depressing, across from a wedding hall and the marble factory – Ilona, from the former East Germany, inscribed a few love poems to Sammy along with some poetic political slogans. “Think outside the walls, this is when it all begins,” Ilona wrote.