MAITHALOON, West Bank (Mar. 27)
Two Palestinian flags hanging at half-mast, a car with smashed windows and scattered drops of blood were evidence of the events that took place in this remote West Bank village early Sunday morning.
It was yet another clash between the Israel Defense Force and Palestinian villagers, leaving three dead: Fahhim Mahmoud Neirat, 26; Ghassan Kassem Neirat, 17; and Ommar Mahmoud Rabaya, 21.
An Israeli driving into this village in northern Samaria felt a strange sensation. The Palestinian flags sent a clear message to Israeli journalists: As far as the local population is concerned, this is Palestine, and the three who were killed were the martyrs of the Palestinian revolution.
Perhaps this is the reason for the strange quiet that ruled the village, indicating an acceptance of the fact that youths must die to get rid of the Israeli rule.
The car with the smashed windows was the key to the story. Here is the official army version of what happened at 4 a.m. Sunday:
An IDF force entered Maithaloon to make arrests. According to the army, after the arrests were made, the soldiers were confronted by a group of youths who attacked them with rocks and axes.
The soldiers overcame some youths by force. As they pulled out of the village, they encountered another group of youths, who threw rocks and bottles. Two local vehicles tried to run over soldiers. The soldiers fired at the vehicles, killing three people and wounding one.
CHANTS OF ‘ALLAH AKBAR’
The villagers had a different story. Ahmad Abdul Rahman, the village head, said that while the arrests were going on, people took to the streets chanting “Allah akbar” (God is great). There was no violence, he said. The soldiers fired at the villagers in cold blood.
The funerals were held at noon Sunday in the village. Afterward, groups of villagers stood in clusters to consider the situation.
Few people left the village Sunday. But few have left in the past several weeks. The ongoing strike, as well as continued army barriers, keep the people at home, nourishing the uprising.
This village of 5,000, rarely mentioned in the news, wrote its own chapter in the uprising.
“I doubt that any solution is in sight,” said the village head. “Personally I am very pessimistic.”
An Israeli journalist remarked that this “seems to be the only thing Israelis and Arabs agree on nowadays — the feeling of despair.”
Two villagers were hospitalized at the Ittihad hospital in Nablus.
Farther south, Sunday afternoon, in the village of Salfit, another Arab was killed in a clash with security forces. The soldiers went there to rescue a tourist bus that entered the village by mistake.
According to military sources, the soldiers were surrounded by youths who attacked them with rocks and iron bars. The soldiers fired at the youths, killing one of them. A curfew was imposed on the village.