Two days after Abdallah Ghuneimat was killed by Israeli occupation forces, his hometown of Kafr Malik was still reeling.
It was not just the killing that caused an overwhelming sense of shock and anger in the village to the northeast of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. It was also the cruel manner in which it happened.
Recounting the few hours following Ghuneimat’s killing, Kafr Malik resident Aisha Hamayel said that “his mother was looking at his corpse from afar, saying, ‘May God help his poor mother,’ not realizing that he was her son. Is there any worse crime than putting a mother through this?”
“Is there any worse tragedy than a mother not recognizing her son because of how deformed his face was?” she added.
On 14 June, Israeli forces raided Kafr Malik, home to approximately 3,000 Palestinians. Frequent night and pre-dawn raids are a constant nightmare in the village. These raids often end in clashes between the Israeli army and youth who try to defend their village.
“I heard the sound of two gunshots and a stun grenade at around 4:30am just as I was waking up to pray fajr[pre-dawn prayers],” Ghuneimat’s aunt, Maha Hamayel, told The Electronic Intifada.
“We live next to the main road where the shooting occurred, so we quickly went outside to see what was happening. We saw the body of a young man and his amputated leg was trapped between a wall and an Israeli military jeep. He was drenched in blood and his blood literally covered the entire street, but we couldn’t initially identify him,” Maha said. She sat next to Ghuneimat’s mother, who had collapsed in anguish.
Abdallah Ghuneimat, 21, worked at his uncle’s poultry farm in Kafr Malik. He spent most of his time running the farm after his release from Israeli prison in August last year.
Ghuneimat was arrested when he was 18 for “resisting the occupation,” as his father, Iyad, put it. “He was politically active with Fatah since he was 12,” Iyad told The Electronic Intifada.
Ghuneimat spent two years in Ofer military prison, where he successfully completed the tawjihi matriculation exam given to high school students.
“During his time in prison, both his father and I were banned from visiting him on security grounds,” his mother, Zanat Ghuneimat, explained.
“It was a very hard period for all of us. So when he was released I just wanted him to focus on his work and life,” his mother said before breaking down in tears.
Even after his release from prison, Ghuneimat continued to defend Kafr Malik from the Israeli army’s raids.
His father is convinced that the army came with the intention of assassinating his son.
The army, meanwhile, offered an entirely different account. According to a military spokesperson, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the jeep which resulted in the crash into a wall — and the “accident” in which Ghuneimat was hit and eventually killed.
“If this was true, if it was only an accident, why did they leave him to bleed for more than three hours? Why did they continue to prevent us from lifting up his body?” his father asked.
The family refused to have an autopsy performed, opting to bury Ghuneimat as soon as possible in a funeral procession that was attended by thousands of Palestinians from Kafr Malik and neighboring villages on Monday.
Bleeding for hours
The fact that no autopsy was carried out makes it difficult to independently verify whether Ghuneimat was indeed shot. But what was clear for the family and eyewitnesses was that Ghuneimat was left bleeding under the jeep for hours while the Israeli soldiers were jubilantly cheering.
“The soldiers were singing and cheering in the jeep while women were crying and trying to get closer to see the body,” Shurouq Hamayel, Ghuneimat’s cousin, who was at the scene, told The Electronic Intifada.
Sawsan Hamayel, Ghuneimat’s aunt, confirmed this account and added that the soldiers were “firing tear gas, sound bombs as well as live bullets in the air to disperse the gathering crowd.”
During the raid on Kafr Malik, Israeli soldiers detained a Palestinian man from the village of Silwad in the jeep. Though blindfolded, the man told the crowd that the soldiers kept saying “aim at him” before the jeep ran over Ghuneimat.
Iyad Ghuneimat, Abdallah’s father, said that a few minutes after the collision, the Israeli soldier kept asking Abdallah’s mother and grandfather: “Do you have anyone missing? Are you looking for someone?” while pointing to Ghuneimat’s home. For the father, this was an indication that they actually knew whom they hit.
Stains of blood and gasoline mark the wall where the Israeli jeep crashed.
For the three hours that followed the brutal killing, the villagers did not even know who the victim was and were physically prevented from reaching him.
Maha Hamayel says that Israeli soldiers beat Ghuneimat’s mother and kicked her away but she insisted on coming back.
The first to identify Ghuneimat was his uncle Hikmat, owner of the chicken farm where Ghuneimat worked for the last few months. Before the Israeli army finally allowed them to recover the body and before paramedics were allowed to transfer Ghuneimat to the Ramallah hospital, Hikmat tried to dissuade his relatives from coming close. He said he was incapable of telling them the shocking truth about their loved one.
The paramedics, however, were too late as Ghuneimat was already dead by then.
“We were looking forward to spending Ramadan together,” said his aunt Maha.
“In the last two years, he was forced to spend Ramadan in prison. We had plans this year for him to spend the month together and to cook him all the dishes that he likes. But he was taken away from us forever,” she added.
Ghuneimat’s five-year-old sister Rahma was especially traumatized. She was very close to her brother, who used to spend his free time playing with her.
Rahma had hardly uttered a word since his death. Instead, she stands and sobs next to the wall where her brother was killed.
Abdallah Ghuneimat was dreaming of leading stable life and having a family of his own, his relatives say. Israel denied him all of that.