HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli undercover forces raided a West Bank hospital on Thursday and shot dead a Palestinian during an attempt to detain another man suspected of carrying out a stabbing, the Palestinian health ministry and doctors said.
The Israeli army confirmed the raid and shooting and said it was carried out to detain Azzam al-Shalalda, 22, over a knife attack on an Israeli settler two weeks ago in the West Bank. Sahalda was shot by his victim but escaped, the army said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said Shalalda and his family, including a cousin killed in the raid, were known operatives of the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas.
The director of Hebron’s al-Ahly hospital, Jehad Shawar, told Voice of Palestine radio that 20-30 undercover soldiers arrived at the clinic at around 3 a.m. and entered with someone in a wheelchair pretending to be pregnant.
CCTV footage from inside the hospital showed a large group of men armed with pistols and rifles, some with beards and others with keffiyeh scarves on their heads, walking through the corridors telling hospital workers to get out of the way.
“They held the staff at gunpoint and stormed the room of Shalalda,” Shawar said. Shalalda’s brother Bilal, who was asleep in the room, said he was tied to the bed by Israeli forces.
A cousin, Abdallah, who was in the bathroom, was shot dead when he suddenly re-entered the room, Shawar said.
“As his cousin exited the bathroom, which was inside the room, they fired five bullets, one bullet in the head, one in the chest and three in his body,” Shawar told the radio station.
“They took Azzam and placed him in the wheelchair they brought the woman in and they exited the room preventing anyone from giving medical aid to the young man lying on the floor.”
There has been a wave of violence across Israel, Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank since Oct. 1, fueled in part by dispute over access to a site in Jerusalem holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Seventy-six Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli security forces, including 44 people Israeli police said were carrying out or about to carry out attacks. Twelve Israelis have been stabbed to death, shot dead or run over and killed in attacks by Palestinians.
Israel’s Supreme Court said on Thursday it would not intervene to prevent the demolition of five houses belonging to Palestinians accused or suspected of involvement in three recent deadly attacks on Israelis.
Israel has said such demolitions are punitive and can also serve as a deterrent to other potential attackers. Human rights groups have called the practice collective punishment.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “following up very closely” the events at the Hebron hospital and was pursuing the matter with Israeli security services.
“Authorities and individuals must do their utmost to ensure full respect for the medical mission,” it said in a statement.
Palestinian Health Minister Jawad Awad accused Israeli security forces of “executing” Abdallah al-Shalalda, who he said was escorting a relative inside the facility.
“The international community must intervene to protect our people from the Israeli killing machine,” he said.
Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency issued a statement afterwards saying it “will not permit terror operatives to hide in any places of refuge”.
The army said Azzam Shalalda stabbed an Israeli in the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion last month, and was then shot by his victim but managed to flee.
Israel frequently carries out undercover operations in the West Bank using special forces who speak fluent Arabic and are disguised as locals.
Writing by Ori Lewis; Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Luke Baker and Mark Heinrich