Israeli forces kill four Palestinians in West Bank town of Azzoun
Israeli forces killed four Palestinians on Tuesday in a raid on the village of Azzoun, east of Qalqilya in the northwest of the occupied West Bank.
The victims were identified by the Palestinian health ministry as Eyad Shabita, 22, Qusai Odwan, 21, Mohammad Radwan, 26, and 18-year-old Walid Radwan.
According to Palestinian and Israeli reports, the four men were killed following an armed confrontation between Palestinian fighters and attacking Israeli forces. The Israeli army said that one of its officers was wounded in the raid.
“Occupation forces began to raid the village around 2:00 am [local time, 0000 GMT], and immediately clashed with local fighters”, Ahmed Shawar, a journalist and resident of Qalqilya, told The New Arab.
“A group of occupation forces were ambushed with an explosive device, inside the village, and that is where the officer was wounded and carried out. Occupation soldiers began to chase local young men, believed to have been among the fighters, through the streets of Azzoun, even climbing through walls and crossing through gardens”, Shawar added.
Photos of 4 of the 5 young people who were killed by the Israeli army this morning in Azzoun in Qalqilia pic.twitter.com/chhdSVZcKB— Mustafa Barghouti @Mustafa_Barghouti (@MustafaBarghou1) January 2, 2024
“The four young men were cornered in a warehouse, where they had a gunfight with the soldiers, at the end of which they were killed, and then the occupation forces took their bodies”, he said.
The bodies of the four men were seized by Israeli forces. Israel regularly takes and withholds the bodies of Palestinians it kills, in a widely condemned practice. This incident raises the number of Palestinians’ bodies withheld by Israel to 450.
Ahmad Radwan, the uncle of Walid Radwan, spoke to TNA.
“Walid was a very calm and nice young man, beloved and respected by all the people of Azzoun”, Radwan said of his nephew.
“He was an electrician, who was imprisoned by the occupation at a very young age for two years... he passed his high school exams in prison, and upon his release began to work to help his family”, he noted.
“On October 12, Walid was travelling with his very close friend and cousin, Samer, in a car, when the occupation forces opened fire at the car killing Samer and wounding Walid in the neck," Radwan recalled.
“During his recovery from his wound in hospital, Walid learned of the death of Samer, and he was so touched that he removed the tubes from his body and left to join his funeral. Days later, occupation forces raided his house, arrested his father for eight days, and threatened to arrest his mother,” he continued.
The Israeli occupation forces shot dead 4 Palestinian young men during a gunfire exchange that took place in Azzoun village, east of Qalqilia city. 2.1.24 pic.twitter.com/D7sH869Eej— Manusia (@Manusia0_0human) January 2, 2024
“Last night, Walid was out of the house shortly before the raid, and after the raid began, his parents failed to reach him on the phone. Then in the morning, we learned that he was killed and that his body was withheld by the occupation”, said Radwan. “His mother is devastated, and the village is in deep mourning for the loss of four young men.”
The village of Azzoun has suffered several Israeli raids and forced closures in recent weeks. In late December, Israeli forces blocked the northern entrance to Azzoun and forced the owners of 15 businesses along the entrance to close.
In early November, Israeli forces killed a 17-year-old teenager during a raid on the village. In November, Israeli forces bulldozed agricultural lands in Azzoun as part of the expansion of an Israeli road in the area. The closure of Azzoun was first imposed in October, severely impacting life in the village.
“The way from Qalqilya to Tulkarm goes through Azzoun, and has become the only way between the two cities since the Israeli wall encircled Qalqilya from all sides, leaving only one entrance from the east, some twenty years ago”, Ahmed Shawar explained.
“Since the occupation began to force the closure of the village’s entrance, Palestinians leaving or going to Qalqiilya have to take long alternative roads, while Azzoun became isolated, and commercial life began to die out”, he went on.
“Every time business owners try to revive the village’s entrance, the occupation forces force them to close, as an attempt to prevent the village recovering”, Shawar added.
Israeli closures and raids in the northern West Bank have intensified in the past two years, accompanied by a rise of Palestinian armed activity. Israel has heavily intensified its raids in the area since the war in Gaza started on 7 October, invading Palestinian villages, cities and refugee camps on a daily basis.
With Tuesday’s raids, the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank by Israeli forces and settlers rises to 324 since 7 October.