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"On the way back from Jenin we heard about the killing of the mother 
and four daughters of the Hatuel family, from Gush Katif. Athidel and 
Mazan Azuka have lost two sons, and their killings are not considered 
criminal acts of murder."

Ha'aretz, May 6, 2004  By Gideon Levy 


Athidel and Mazan Azuka had three sons. Osama was killed three years 
ago, at the age of 13. Mohammed was killed two weeks ago, after 
taking a high-school exam in English. Only Marwan is left 

On the way back from Jenin we heard about the killing of the mother 
and four daughters of the Hatuel family, from Gush Katif. Athidel and 
Mazan Azuka have lost two sons, and their killings are not considered 
criminal acts of murder. Mazan, a grocer, and his wife, Athidel, had 
three sons, and now only one is left. Osama was killed by soldiers 
during a demonstration as he walked with his father and his older 
brother, Mohammed. Mohammed was shot during an assassination 
operation two weeks ago. He was a high-school student, a passerby, 
who was on his way from an examination to sign up for a trip, when 
soldiers shot him in the head, about half an hour after liquidating 
the people they were after. There are times when anyone walking the 
streets of Jenin is marked for death, because of the war against 
terrorism.

Intensive work is under way on both sides of the barrier that 
suffocates Jenin. On the Israeli side a huge terminal is being built, 
as on an international border; and on the Palestinian side they are 
repairing the damage done by tanks that destroyed everything they 
encountered. Bulldozers opposite bulldozers, build a new and dubious 
future, until the next round of destruction, seemingly working in 
coordination, separated by the fence. There's a lot of construction 
work going on in the city's refugee camp, too: They are rebuilding in 
the wake of the devastation wrought by the big invasion of the Israel 
Defense Forces two years ago. At the end of the summer, the first 
families are scheduled to move into their new homes at "ground zero," 
the area of the "earthquake."

Jenin is under closure. A girl carrying a pink parasol is strolling 
atop the soft limestone hill on which the camp stands, a young man in 
a wheelchair moves slowly along a street at the bottom. A circle of 
stones surrounds bloodstains in the sand at the corner of al-Zuhur 
and Omar al-Mukhtar streets. The blood is that of Mohammed Azuka. His 
photograph, together with one of his slain brother, appears on the 
memorial posters that are pasted on a tin slab next to the improvised 
monument of blood and stones.

Not far from there, inside his tiny grocery store, located at the 
entrance to the city's produce market, sits Mazan Azuka, the bereaved 
father. He sells eggs out of a pail and the photographs of his dead 
sons hang above his head. He's 53, has thick glasses, and some of his 
teeth are missing.

A staircase leads from the grocery store to the house. Osama was 
killed first, at the beginning of the present intifada, in November 
2000, on a day when 10 Palestinians and two soldiers were killed and 
no one gave a second thought to one more dead Palestinian child. It 
was a Friday, after the prayers. A demonstration set out from the 
mosque to Jalameh checkpoint. The children threw stones at the 
soldiers, the soldiers fired bullets at the children, and Osama fell 
to the ground between his father and his older brother, a bullet 
lodged in his heart. Two lines in the newspaper. At home a meal of 
his favorite foods, chicken and potatoes, prepared by his mother, was 
waiting, his father now relates with an expression of resignation. 
Osama was 13 and a half when he died, Osama.

Two weeks ago on Saturday - April 24 - the eldest son, Mohammed, had 
an English exam. At 19 , he had already taken the English 
matriculation exam once, and failed, and decided to try again. When 
he got home ,his father asked him how it went, and Mohammed said it 
had been all right. He took two biscuits from the grocery store and 
went to sign up for a weekend trip with neighborhood youngsters, to 
Tul Karm. Half an hour later someone came to the grocery store and 
told the stunned father: Your son was killed.

When Mohammed left the store with the biscuits, an IDF undercover 
unit - Israeli soldiers dressed as Arabs - was waiting in ambush for 
wanted individuals at the corner of Al-Zuhur and Al-Mukhtar Streets. 
Mohammed, of course, knew nothing about all this. Kamal Tubassi, from 
the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and his associate, Said Hardan, were driving in 
a yellow Volkswagen Golf on the street that leads from the town hall. 
Slightly before the intersection, as they were about to turn right 
onto a narrow street that cuts through a small olive grove to their 
favorite cafe, a Mercedes van filled with caged chickens suddenly 
swerved in front of them and blocked their way. The occupants of the 
van opened fire at the car. According to the testimonies we collected 
at the scene of the assassination, the wanted men didn't have time to 
shoot back. The disguised soldiers hid among the cages.

Mohammed was killed next to a high-tension electricity pole on the 
sidewalk; behind it there is a small garden and a one-story house. 
The soldiers hid behind bushes in the garden and down the road; it's 
not clear what they were waiting for, since they had already disposed 
of the two wanted individuals. Tawfiq Jumaa, whose porch overlooks 
the intersection, says he saw the soldiers kill the two men; one of 
them managed to get out of the car and was killed on the road, while 
the other was killed inside the car. He says they were shot at close 
range and that they did not fire at the soldiers. It happened next to 
the Najoud beauty parlor, about 20 or 30 meters from the place where 
Mohammed was later killed. After the assassination, several jeeps 
arrived and linked up with the liquidators. Another half-hour passed 
before Mohammed was killed.

The two brothers are buried next to each other in the cemetery for 
martyrs of the first intifada at the edge of the refugee camp. Here 
is a photograph of Mohammed and Marwan - the only remaining brother - 
in which Mohammed's hand rests lightly on his younger brother's 
shoulder. "After God, we have only one boy left," the father 
says. "Only the last son and God."

A few minutes after the assassination, journalist Ali Samudi, who 
works for Al-Jazeera and Reuters, arrived on the scene. Wearing a 
steel helmet and a protective vest with "Press" clearly inscribed on 
it in English, he had rushed to the site after hearing the shots. It 
was around noon. He saw about 10 men - among them Mohammed Azuka - 
who had gathered up the street and were watching the events unfold. 
They tried to move closer to the two wanted men who were lying, one 
in the car, one on the road, perhaps dead or perhaps only wounded, to 
see whether they could help. Samudi wanted to take pictures. The IDF 
jeeps had left and they were convinced that the soldiers had gone and 
that they could advance.

They approached the bodies slowly. Samudi says he was walking behind 
Azuka. None of them was armed, though Samudi says that some of the 
youngsters may have been holding stones. After advancing about 10 
meters shots suddenly rang out from the garden and the lower part of 
the street. Samudi saw Azuka fall to the ground. Another youngster 
was wounded in the thigh. Samudi: "We were scared and we turned and 
ran. Then I understood that the special forces were still in the 
area."

A few minutes later the Jeeps, five of them, returned from every 
direction. Samudi wanted the soldiers to see him and identify him as 
a journalist, so he stood in the middle of the road. He has already 
been wounded once, in the legs. Along with another journalist and a 
fieldworker from B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, who 
arrived on the scene, they stood next to the soldiers for about half 
an hour. The bodies of the two wanted men lay further down the 
street, Azuka's body lay at the intersection. Three Palestinian 
ambulances arrived, but the soldiers didn't let them approach. Masked 
soldiers carrying heavy machine guns were scattered over the whole 
area, Samudi says. They ordered him and his two colleagues to leave, 
and they retreated in the direction of the nearby cemetery. Half an 
hour later, when they tried again to emerge from the cemetery, a jeep 
sped toward them and a soldier told them to leave. "Get out of here, 
ya manyak, go on," the soldier said. Samudi: "I was afraid. I told my 
friends that we had to go, because the situation was bad. We decided 
to stand next to the Jeeps, where it was safer. It was impossible to 
go back in the other direction. There was army there, and stone-
throwing. I wanted to photograph the bodies. We advanced slowly."

After a few meters, Samudi heard the other journalist call him from 
behind. He turned around immediately and felt something hit him in 
the nose. What happened, he asked his colleague, but the blood was 
already streaming onto his clothes and he realized that he had been 
shot in the nose. He is certain that if he hadn't turned around he 
would have been shot in the head, like Azuka. He is convinced that a 
sniper was aiming for his head from the end of the street.

The response from the IDF Spokesperson's Office: "During the 
operation [in Jenin], the soldiers were fired upon from several 
positions. In one case, the troops saw that a local journalist had 
been wounded by the fire directed at the soldiers. The journalist was 
evacuated by the Red Crescent to a clinic for medical treatment. This 
is not the first time that the terror organizations have used 
children and youths, of younger and younger ages, and knowingly 
endangered their lives to assist in terrorist operations."

Samudi, in his office this week, his nose bandaged in a strange 
way: "They could have arrested Kamal and Said [the two wanted men]. 
They could have shot Azuka in the leg. But they came to kill. The 
message is to kill. Two hours later they killed another Palestinian, 
in Qabatiya."

A few days earlier, the IDF scattered leaflets for the residents of 
Jenin in the middle of the night: "The cessation of terrorism in the 
area will bring you more freedom and improve your economic 
situation ... The terrorists are wrecking your society ... Do not 
lend a hand to the terrorists ... Anyone who helps the terrorists 
will suffer the same fate they do."
 

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