This Is From God And The Army

Gideon Levy

As he was loading vegetables at the market, Ahmed Satiti was killed by fire from an IDF tank. His friend, Tawfik Hamrashi, paid a condolence call to the family and on his way home, was also shot to death by a tank. In Jenin, life is cheap.


HA'ARETZ

Friday, 18 October 2002

Hasan (right) and Ta'mar Satiti: "The Jews helped him bring children into the world; the Jews also killed him."
(Photo: Miki Kratsman)

 

   Death lurks around every corner in Jenin. Young Hasan Satiti was waiting for his father, who had promised to bring him breakfast on the recent holiday commemorating the Prophet Mohammed's ascent to heaven. But Ahmed Satiti was shot to death from afar by IDF soldiers, killed in the city market in the early morning as he loaded vegetables into his car. Young Ala Hamrashi, son of taxi driver Tawfik Hamrashi, who was a friend of Ahmed Satiti, carries in his pocket the wages his father earned on the last day of his life: 220 blood-soaked shekels. His father was killed in his taxi as he left the home of the Satiti family after having paid a condolence call. A tank, its lights and engine off, was waiting in ambush and apparently killed him without any warning. 

While we were visiting the homes of these two innocent victims in Jenin this week, soldiers shot Yusra Sawalha, a woman who was driving from the city to her home in the nearby village of Ra'i, killing her and wounding two of her friends who were with her in the car. Sawalha was 40 years old. Nearly every day, an innocent person is killed in Jenin. At any moment, a tank could appear in the middle of town and start shooting without warning. This dying town is burying its dead in a new cemetery that was dug for the 55 people killed during the occupation of the refugee camp in April. 

On the asphalt road at the edge of the main market, at the foot of the Al-Bureij building, between Osama Shami's clothing store and Mustafa Najib's egg stall, the blood stains have been covered with sand. Some of the stalls are closed and the ones that are open have hardly any customers. There is no curfew, but there are also no buyers. 

This is where peddler Ahmed Satiti was standing two Thursdays ago, loading sacks of onions and garlic into his station wagon, which had an old, rusty speaker mounted on the roof. It was early in the morning, before seven, and Satiti was hurrying to finish loading the merchandise. He had promised his son Hasan that he would bring a special holiday breakfast from the market and that they'd eat it together when he got home. 

Since it was a holiday, there was no school that day. Shirin and Ahmed Satiti had waited 10 years for the birth of their first son, Hasan, and another eight years until his brother, Ta'mar, now one and a half, was born. In the family's address book, under the heading "The Jewish Doctor," are the name and address of fertility specialist Dr. Amnon David from Ramat Gan, who treated the couple for years. 

Satiti was almost finished loading the produce. He came here every morning to buy his goods and then took to the streets of the city in his car to sell them, using the speaker to attract customers. The tanks appeared shortly before seven. Two tanks that came from the direction of the mosque and stopped across from the entrance to the market, aiming their guns inside. Shami and Najib say there were many people in the market when the tanks arrived and that the soldiers suddenly started firing at the passersby. Eyewitnesses in the market say that there was no reason and no warning given. The IDF spokesman says an explosive device was thrown at an IDF force, that the force came under fire and returned fire, and that IDF is continuing to investigate the circumstances of the incident. 

No one in the market was sure whether the curfew was in effect that day or not. Usually, the local television broadcasts report in the evening whether there will be a curfew in effect the next day. But the night before, there was no such report. The curfew has become a vague concept in Jenin. Often, the residents have no idea if they are supposed to stay inside their homes or if they are allowed to come out into the street. Sometimes, the people in Jenin say, the tanks suddenly enter, announce a curfew and start shooting. 

Satiti was felled almost immediately. A bullet struck him in the head and he crumpled to the ground next to his car. Witnesses say that an ambulance that tried to rush to his aid was delayed for 15 minutes by the soldiers. The market continued to come under fire and Satiti was finally taken in a vegetable truck to the private Al-Razi hospital in the town. The doctors pronounced him dead shortly afterward. 
 

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"The Jews helped him bring two children into the world and the Jews also killed him," says Mustafa, the dead man's brother, who also works as a vegetable peddler. Mustafa was the last one to see his brother alive. He was buying his own produce for the day while his brother was loading up the garlic and onions he had just purchased. 

The blood-soaked bills are folded in the wallet of taxi driver Tawfik Hamrashi, who was also known as Issa Bariqi, after his lost village of Bariqi, on the other side of the 1948 lines. His son Ala says that he'll soon bring the money to the taxi company his father worked for and then they'll decide what to do with it. 

"My father was as straight as a ruler," says Ala. "He worked his whole life and he was always honest. He was such a decent man. It's such a shame, but this is from God, from God and the army. They don't tell the guy in the tank that this is a human being just like him. I know what they tell him, that he's going to fight against someone who's less than an animal. That's what they tell them. There are terrorists - so go catch them. But a taxi driver who just closes his door and goes to work? I know what they teach them in the army. And it doesn't matter whether they're Ashkenazi, Yemenite or Sephardi. I know that's how it is. But it's all from God." 

Tawfik Hamrashi was a father of seven. Ala is the eldest. He's a handsome young man who has worked in Israel for years. Until his father was killed, he somehow managed to keep working at the Ma Bapita restaurant in Petah Tikva. He has many Jewish friends. The family home at the eastern edge of the city is well-kept. Satiti and Hamrashi, who met their deaths separately, were friends. Hamrashi sometimes used to bring watermelons from Hadera for Satiti to sell. Hamrashi was 52 years old when he died. Since the closure was imposed, he had stopped bringing watermelons and other produce in the old truck he once bought from the IDF and became a taxi driver with his cousin's company in the closed-off town. 

When Hamrashi woke up two weeks ago on Saturday, he went to see if people were going out onto the street. That's how people check to see if there's a curfew. "I want to make a little money if there are no tanks," he said to his children, and left home at around 10 in the morning. Before doing so, he'd used the phone in his taxi to call the office and was told that it was okay to go out. The night before, his son Ala had called from Petah Tikva and urged him not to leave the house. "`Don't go,' I told him," the grieving son recalls. "`It's not worth a single shekel if your life is in danger.' `Don't worry. If the army's there, I'm not going out,' he told me." They hadn't seen each other in nine months. The son was in Petah Tikva and the father in Jenin. But they spoke on the telephone. 

The father's day passed slowly. He had a few fares, all short trips within the city, of course. At around four in the afternoon, he told his friends that he wanted to pay a condolence call at the home of Ahmed Satiti. He spent about half an hour there and then said that he ought to be going because the situation in the city seemed to be getting more tense. He wanted to get home in time for the evening prayer. He got into his car, stopped by the office and told them he'd come in tomorrow to settle the day's accounts. His cousin warned him not to drive if the army was in the city. Hamrashi didn't notice anything and so he headed home, via Abu Bakr Street. 
 

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It was twilight. Hamrashi stopped at the gas station just a few hundred meters from his home, refueled his car and continued on his way. Two tanks were parked between the trees, hidden in the darkness. Witnesses say that the tanks' lights and engines were off. The gas station attendant says he saw the taxi stop not far from the tank and that Hamrashi turned on the light inside the car and the four signal lights, in order to signal to the soldiers in the tank. He also flashed his headlights in an effort to signal to them, and turned on the sign on the roof of his taxi. 

"Whenever he was in a situation like that," says Ala, "he'd pull over and start reading verses from the Koran, praying for protection, just like religious Jews do." 

Suddenly, and seemingly without any warning, the taxi came under fire. One bullet struck Hamrashi in the head. Others struck his body, as well as the taxi and its engine. 

The IDF Spokesperson says: "An IDF force noticed an unusual situation, in which a solitary driver was driving at high speed toward an IDF force in the center of the city of Jenin. It was dark and the city was under curfew. Because of this, the force felt that lives were in danger, that it could be a car bomb and that it therefore had to protect itself. The force used deterrent fire in order to prevent the car from reaching it. Apparently, the driver was struck by a bullet that ricocheted off the ground. The driver was evacuated by the Red Crescent to the IDF checkpoint and from there was taken by Magen David Adom to a hospital in Israel where he died of his injuries. The IDF is continuing to investigate the circumstances of the incident." 

Ala: "I want Israel to understand that there are good people who live here. People that want to live the way you do. You have it great. Have you seen our situation here? An animal that people want to slaughter for the holiday lives better. I hadn't been in Jenin for nine months. I was banging my head with my fists [when I saw]. You can see the bullet holes in every store. Why can't it be like it is in Afula? Do you want to tell me that the Israeli spends nine months in his mother's womb and I didn't? That he's a human being and I'm not? Here, look at my father's blood on the money. It's red, just like yours."
 

 

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