Video shows rare look at undercover Israeli unity
Security camera footage of a deadly Israeli arrest raid in a West Bank hospital on Thursday gave a rare glimpse into the murky undercover units that Israel contends are a key tool in preventing violence and Palestinians revile as a ruthless symbol of Israeli occupation.
In the footage, Israeli officers disguised as Palestinian civilians in Arab garb, including some wearing fake moustaches and beards or dressed as women, burst into the hospital and dragged away a wanted Palestinian in a wheelchair.
One man was shot to death during the sweep, identified by hospital workers as the Palestinian suspect’s cousin.
The pre-dawn raid in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron, outraged Palestinians and drew accusations that Israel had improperly used force in a building that should be immune, or at least insulated, from military operations.
“This is an outright crime,” said Jihad Shawar, director of the Al-Ahli Hospital. “No one should violate hospitals, but Israel did.”
Israel has long used undercover units to arrest wanted suspects. But rarely are their activities captured on camera so vividly.
Details of the raid
The hospital released security camera footage showing about a dozen men entering a hospital ward shortly before 4 a.m. A person in a wheelchair suddenly stood up as the security men pulled out their weapons and walked down the hall.
One officer was disguised as a Palestinian woman in a black niqab, a garment that completely covers the face and body. Another, wearing a headscarf, was dressed as a pregnant woman, walking slowly and holding her back. Others wore thick moustaches, Palestinian kaffiyehs or a long beard, typical of devout Muslims.
At one point, the bearded man shouted and pushed a bewildered hospital worker. Roughly two minutes later, the officers were seen pushing a man in a wheelchair, presumably the suspect, back down the hallway.
As they left, one officer turned to the hospital worker and motioned, apparently to let him know that someone was shot. As the officers exited, a pair of hospital workers rushed toward the area of the shooting.
The Israeli military identified the target of the raid as Azzam Shalaldeh, a Palestinian accused of stabbing and severely wounding an Israeli man in the West Bank late last month. It said Shalaldeh, who is about 20, was in the hospital being treated for a gunshot wound he suffered after being shot by his stabbing victim.
Osama Najjar, the spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry, called the incident an “assassination.” The international human rights group Amnesty International said wounds to Abdallah’s head and upper body suggested the shooting was an “extrajudicial execution.”
Israel has used undercover units behind enemy lines since the time of its founding in 1948. But operations used against Palestinians took their current shape roughly 25 years ago, at the time of the first Palestinian uprising.
Both the Israeli army and the paramilitary border police maintain such units. During a wave of violence over the past two months, the units have been especially active, and Thursday’s incident was not the first time they have been caught on camera.
Last month, a group of men posing as Palestinian protesters and mingling with rock-throwers in the West Bank were filmed suddenly drawing their weapons and arresting a protester.