Tensions have sparked again in Gaza after a disturbing video showing an Israeli bulldozer dragging the body of a Palestinian who was shot just moments before along the border fence between Gaza and Israel.
The Israeli army said in a statement that it opened fire on two Palestinian men suspected of placing a bomb next to the fence east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, adding that the men were on Israeli territory, despite being on the Gaza side of the barrier.
The Islamic Jihad faction in Gaza identified the slain Palestinian as 27-year-old Mohammed al-Naem, a member of the organization.
Cross-border tensions came to a height overnight, as Islamic Jihad promised a swift retaliation against Israel, and began firing rockets towards southern Israel around 5pm.
Most of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. No Israeli injuries were reported.
By Sunday night, around 10pm, Israel mounted a series of airstrikes across Gaza, claiming that it had hid a rocket-launching site belonging to Islamic Jihad.
The Israeli military also claimed to have hit “a hub of Islamic Jihad’s activity in Syria,” south of Damascus. Islamic Jihad reported that two if its men were killed in the airstrike in Syria.
Official Palestinian Authority (PA) Wafa news agency reported that four Palestinians were injured in Gaza during the Israeli airstrikes, and that six people were killed in the strike on Syria.
The video, captured on Sunday, shows a confrontation along the border line between a group of young men and Israeli soldiers, who were stationed inside a military bulldozer and a Merkava tank.
After one Palestinians is shot to the ground and another is injured, a group of other young men rush to retrieve the injured, at which point the bulldozer begins barreling toward them.
Unable to retrieve the man who was shot, the group retreats.
The bulldozer then begins probing at the body of the incapacitated man, and at one point, the blade of the bulldozer appears to be moving up and down, hitting the body of the man trapped below it.
Finally, the bulldozer lifts up the man by his clothes, his limp body dangling from the blade of the bulldozer.
The video was circulated on social media over the weekend, drawing outrage from activist groups and Palestinians across the occupied territories.
Senior PLO member Hanan Ashrawi responded to a tweet of the video, saying it was “too painful to watch,” and described it as an act of “unhinged sadistic cruelty of the occupation.”
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) February 23, 2020
Al Jazeera producer Linah al-Saafin tweeted: “I’ve got no words for this. When your own people are so dehumanized, what is a lifeless Palestinian body dangling from an Israeli bulldozer?”
I've got no words for this.
When your own people are so dehumanized, what is a lifeless Palestinian body dangling from an Israeli bulldozer? https://t.co/Y7dUOEC9R0
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) February 23, 2020
Palestinians circulated a cartoon on social media depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, illustrated with Jesus hanging from the blade of a bulldozer with a Palestinian flag draped around his neck.
Others compared the incident to the 2003 killing of American peace activist Rachel Corrie by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza.
The Israel-based legal rights group Adalah demanded the Israeli military open a criminal investigation into the incident, which it called a “war crime.”
“A series of international laws… classify the Israeli military actions depicted in the video as war crimes and blatant violations of international criminal law, and international human rights and humanitarian law.”
The group highlighted the fact that “harm to the dignity of the deceased” has been found in past rulings by the supreme court to be a violation of Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
Second incident with bulldozer
The disturbing incident in Gaza was the second in one week involving an Israeli bulldozer and Palestinian protesters.
A video published on Friday shows an Israeli military bulldozer charging at a group of Palestinian protesters in the northern occupied West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum.
The residents of Kafr Qaddum began weekly marches in 2011 to protest against settlement construction and land confiscation in the area.
For years they have been met with violent suppression by Israeli forces, but Friday’s case of protest suppression, activists say, was different.
A video of the incident shows a bulldozer charging at the group of protesters, using its blade to push large rocks at high speed down the street towards the crowd.
תיעוד חריג: שופל צבאי נוסע במהירות ברחוב מרכזי בכפר הפלסטיני קדום שבשומרון, ומדרדר סלעים לכיוון מתפרעים פלסטינים שיידו בקבוקי תבערה ואבנים לעבר כוחות הביטחון. מדובר בסלעים שהציבו המתפרעים כדי לחסום את הציר@carmeldangor @HaimOmri pic.twitter.com/CdkdroPJiP
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) February 21, 2020
One slab of stone crashed into an ambulance and hit at least one protester, injuring them. The video also shows one large boulder nearly missing a young boy, who is pulled out of the way just in time by other protesters.
The Israeli army claimed it was merely clearing the large stones, allegedly set by protesters, out of the way of the soldiers.
B’Tselem spokesperson Amit Gulitz told Mondoweiss he had “never seen” such a method of “crowd dispersal means” used by Israel against protesters.
“While the documented incidents in Kafr Qaddum and near the Gaza perimeter fence are particularly gruesome, they reflect long standing Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories: prohibiting demonstrations by using excessive, illegal force, and snatching bodies of Palestinians – all of which was sanctioned even by the Israeli High Court,” Gulitz said.