Palestinian said killed by IDF live fire during clashes near illegal outpost

Emad Dweikat, 37, reported shot during a protest against flashpoint Evyatar outpost near Nablus; despite gov’t-backed deal for settlers to leave site, area continues to seethe

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Israeli outpost of Evyatar in the village of Beita in the West Bank, on August 6, 2021. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP)
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Israeli outpost of Evyatar in the village of Beita in the West Bank, on August 6, 2021. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP)

A Palestinian was shot and killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers during a protest near the West Bank town of Beita, the Palestinian Authority health ministry reported.

It said local resident Emad Ali Dweikat, 37, was killed during a weekly protest march against an illegal Israeli outpost, known as Evyatar, built on a hilltop overlooking Beita. Dweikat was rushed to a hospital in nearby Nablus but died shortly thereafter.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said an additional 59 people were treated for injuries, including one hit by live fire and 20 with rubber bullets. The rest were from tear gas inhalation.

According to the Israeli military, Friday’s protests saw Palestinians clash violently with Israeli soldiers, throwing stones and rolling flaming tires at troops. No troops were reported hurt.

Beita has seethed since an illegal outpost, known as Evyatar, was constructed by national-religious Jewish settlers back in May. Palestinians have regularly — and sometimes violently — protested the settler presence, leading to seven Palestinian deaths during clashes with Israeli forces.

In a bid to reduce tensions, the government backed a deal that saw the settlers leave the hilltop, but left open the possibility for Evyatar to become a legal settlement under Israeli law. The violent clashes, however, have continued.

Dweikat was the seventh Palestinian to die during clashes with Israeli soldiers near Beita since the outpost was constructed, Palestinian health officials said. He is the second since the deal went into effect in late June.

The Israeli army neither confirmed nor denied that Dweikat had been killed by Israeli fire. But soldiers had used live bullets against the violent rioters, the army said.

“Around 700 rioters participated, hurling stones and rolling burning tires at Israeli soldiers and Border Police. The forces active at the scene responded with riot dispersal means and Ruger bullets,” the Israeli military said.

The army considers the .22mm Ruger bullets to be less lethal than standard-issue 5.56mm slugs, meaning they can be used at West Bank demonstrations. But human rights groups have condemned the use of Ruger fire for riot control, as the weapon can still kill.

Hisham Dweikat, a university professor and local Fatah leader, told The Times of Israel that the deceased Emad had four daughters and a son who had been born two months ago. Emad was a construction worker who had been employed across Israel and the West Bank, Hisham said.

In videos from the scene, Palestinians can be seen slinging stones at Israeli troops. But according to Hisham, Emad had been far away from the soldiers when he was struck by live bullets in his chest.

“He was participating in the march, but he was far away from the soldiers at the time of the shooting. He was standing next to the medics, and he wasn’t throwing stones or anything,” said Hisham, who said he had witnessed Emad being shot.

Paramedics evacuate a protester injured amidst clashes with Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Israeli outpost of Evyatar in the village of Beita, north of the occupied West Bank, on August 6, 2021. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The Evyatar outpost was established on Jabal Sbeih back in May. Hundreds of settlers flowed into the area, regularly holding events in an attempt to push the state to legalize the land grab.

Palestinians say the plot is land privately owned by Beita residents. Israeli authorities have not yet determined whether that is the case.

The new Israeli government, which is led by the settler right, struggled to evict the religious-nationalist Jews who had taken up residence there. Instead, Israeli authorities chose to cut a deal with the settlers in an attempt to cool spiraling tensions in the area.

Under the terms of the deal, the settlers would leave Evyatar. In exchange, the makeshift buildings they installed will remain in place, the IDF will turn the area into a makeshift base and over the next several months, the Defense Ministry will survey the land to determine its status and see if it can be legally transformed into a formal settlement.

Palestinian residents of Beita have not accepted this arrangement, however, and have vowed to continue protesting until Israeli presence on Jabal Sbeih ends.

“This was an agreement that was made without any representatives from the landowners in Beita. It’s just the Israeli occupation and its settlers,” said Beita deputy mayor Mousa Hamayel in a phone call last month. “As long as there is no access to the land, there will continue to be a natural response.”

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