A Palestinian man who was killed by Border Police in the West Bank Monday night was unarmed and had not opened fire on Israeli forces before being killed, his family said Tuesday. Israeli reports indicated that the man had first shot and hit an Israeli policeman before being killed by return fire.
The man, identified by relatives as Alaa Muhammad Awad Audah, 30, had arrived at a checkpoint near the Tapuah Junction in order to receive a shipment of cellphones for a store he owns, but was shot and killed as he approached, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported. Audah was married with two children, and his home village of Hawara declared three days of mourning, the report said.
According to Israel Radio, Palestinian witnesses said the man was an unarmed Fatah member who was not involved in any political activity. Fatah confirmed Audah was a member and said he had been killed “in cold blood.”
But the extremist movement Hamas, which has just joined a unity government with Fatah, praised the “shooting attack” as a “natural response to the crimes committed by the Zionist occupation.” Hamas spokesman Husam Badran added that “resistance is inherent in the minds and hearts of young Palestinians, and every effort to forget or cancel this resistance will end in failure.”
According to the IDF, Audah opened fire on Border Police forces near Tapuah Junction and was killed by return fire. One policeman was lightly injured in the incident.
The wounded policeman was hit twice in the legs and hospitalized in stable condition, but still managed to shoot the attacker. The same officer had been involved in an incident in November at the same junction, when a Palestinian was killed after he attacked an army post with a flare gun, the Hebrew news site Walla reported.
Security forces were on heightened alert following the incident and increased their presence in the West Bank on Tuesday morning. Palestinian media reported that Israeli forces had searched Odeh’s home in Hawara and the store where he worked, and questioned several family members.
A group of Palestinians clashed Tuesday morning with security forces and threw rocks at Israeli cars near the Tapuah Junction. Two Israeli civilians were lightly injured by rocks, and their cars were damaged.
Last week, Border Police forces at the same junction discovered a Palestinian man wearing an explosive vest and thus prevented a planned suicide bombing. On Friday, policemen from the Alon battalion of the Border Police saw the man, a 20-year-old Nablus resident, walking toward them wearing a heavy coat, despite the 35-degree-Celsius heat (95 degrees Fahrenheit). The policemen called on the man to stop, at which point he lay down in the road.
Eventually, the suspect allowed policemen to remove his coat, revealing what looked like an explosive belt on his person. He admitted that it was indeed a bomb. The man was arrested, and police sappers were rushed to the scene to neutralize the bomb. The explosive belt was composed of 12 pipe bombs connected with electric wires.
IDF sources initially assessed that the man was on his way to an attack, possibly against soldiers stationed nearby. Later reports suggested the attack was planned for a city in Israel.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.