Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank enter Israel every day for work without a permit. The state is fully aware of this reality that serves its interests by guaranteeing cheap, disempowered labor. Despite this, soldiers lying in wait in front of gaps in the Separation Barrier or patrolling in military jeeps along the barrier’s security road open live fire at Palestinian workers crossing through these openings. As B’Tselem has previously reported, these planned shootings are not an independent initiative by a soldier or commander but policy implementation. It is clear that this policy is not — and cannot be — legal. After all, the workers do not endanger anyone, and all they ask for, as the military knows full well, is to provide for their families. Yet as far as Israel is concerned, this is policy. And due to this, no one will be held accountable for these acts — neither the soldiers who fired the shots, nor the commanders who planned the ambushes, nor the legal advisors who signed off on the policy, nor senior military officials.
Since October 2019, B’Tselem has documented 36 cases of workers injured by live fire while attempting to enter or return from Israel through gaps in the Separation Barrier. Many of these incidents took place in Far’on, while others took place in other parts of Tulkarm District or in Jenin District.
11 January 2021, the injuring of nine workers at the Separation Barrier, Far’on:
On Monday, 11 January 2021, soldiers lay in wait in front of gaps in the Separation Barrier near the village of Far’on, where Palestinians who do not have a permit try to enter Israel for work. Throughout the day, soldiers fired 0.22-inch caliber bullets (two-twos) without warning from a distance of 10 to 15 meters, injuring at least nine Palestinians in the legs. All nine were taken to hospitals in Tulkarm, and five suffered leg fractures.
Below are testimonies collected by B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi from some of the victims:
M.F. (25), a resident of Beit Imrin north of Nablus, set out from his home at around 3:30 A.M. He reached the fence about an hour later, crossed it, and was shot in the leg after he advanced several steps. In his testimony, he recounted:
When I reached the gap in the fence, it was still dark. Some workers had already started coming to the area on their way to work. I crossed through the gap, and after a few steps, several shots were fired at me. I was hit in the left leg and fell down on the road. Because I was shocked and afraid, I got up and ran towards the cars parked in Far’on, east of the fence, about 200 meters away. I found a car that took me to a hospital in Tulkarm. I didn’t see the soldiers who shot at me. I only heard them chasing after me and calling me to stop. I was examined and x-rayed at the hospital, and it turned out that the bullet had caused a bone fracture. The doctors put my left leg in a cast. I’m still in hospital, receiving treatment, and undergoing more tests.
B.A. (25), a resident of the village of Kafr ‘Abush, south of Tulkarm, works as an autobody mechanic in an auto repair shop inside Israel. He came to the gap in the fence around 6:30 A.M., as he does every day. After crossing and advancing several meters, he was shot in the leg. In his testimony, he recalled what happened that morning:
On Monday morning, at around 6:30, I came to the area of the gap in the fence. There were dozens of workers there who had come from different parts of the northern West Bank. Everyone was going to their jobs in Israel through one of these gaps. I crossed the fence and advanced several steps. There were more workers in front of me. Then three shots were fired, and one hit my right leg. I fell down on the security road, and three soldiers came out of a nearby olive grove. They surrounded me and started treating me to stop the bleeding. About 15 minutes later, a military ambulance arrived. The paramedics gave me a pain relief shot because I couldn’t stand on my feet. The ambulance then took me to the Jbarah Checkpoint, where a waiting Palestinian ambulance rushed me to the hospital in Tulkarm. I was examined and x-rayed in the ER, and it turned out I have a fracture below my right knee. The doctors gave me a full leg cast. I’m supposed to stay in the hospital for a few days for further treatment.
Living in poverty has pushed me into the risky venture of crossing the fence. If I had found work in Tulkarm or its vicinity, I wouldn’t have endangered myself like that. After all, I’m not going to Israel for travel or a change of scenery. I’m going there to work so I can support my family. I don’t know how long I’ll be confined and unable to work. It will take time for the bone to heal.
B.’A. (29), a resident of Bal’a, east of Tulkarm, works as a plasterer in Israel. He arrived at the Separation Barrier at around 8:30 A.M. After he saw no soldiers in the area, he crossed the gap in the barrier and was shot in the leg. In his testimony, he recounted:
When I came to the fence area at around 8:30 A.M., I kept watching the security road to see if any soldiers or military jeeps were there. When I saw there weren’t any, I advanced with several other workers that I didn’t know towards the gap where I usually cross over. After five or six workers went through, my turn came, and I crossed, too. After a few steps, I heard several shots. I didn’t know where they were fired from. It felt like I’d been electrocuted in my right leg. Out of fright, I started running back through the gap towards Far’on. Five or six soldiers stepped out from the olive trees in front of the gap and called me to stop. They chased after me, but I kept running. After about 400 meters, I lost them and reached a parked car. I got in, and the driver took me to the Far’on junction near the Palestinian National Security checkpoint. The Palestinian force called an ambulance that took me to the hospital in Tulkarm. I was examined and x-rayed in the ER. Luckily, it turned out that the two bullets had entered and exited my right leg without causing any bone fractures, but some fragments stayed inside. I’m still hospitalized and receiving anti-inflammatory treatments.
N.’A. (20), a resident of Jinsafut southwest of Nablus, arrived at the Separation Barrier in the early morning hours. After hearing that several laborers had been shot by soldiers that day, he decided to return home, try to cross again in the evening, and stay overnight in Israel. At around 5:00 P.M., N.’A. came to the gap, crossed it, and was then shot. In his testimony, he recalled:
Towards the evening, at around 5:00 P.M., I came back to the fence area west of Far’on. I didn’t know that soldiers were ambushing the workers. Several meters past the gap, I was shot in the right leg. I immediately started running towards Far’on because I was scared that the soldiers would grab me. Despite the intense pain and bleeding, I kept running away limping. After 300 meters, I found a parked taxi that drove me to the hospital in Tulkarm. I was x-rayed, and it turned out that two bullets had hit me. I was in a lot of pain, but luckily, the bullets didn’t hit a bone. I’m supposed to be discharged during the week, and the doctors say the wounds will heal soon.
1 February 2021, the injuring of two workers at the Separation Barrier, Barta’ah a-Sharqiyah:
On Monday, 1 February 2021, at around 6:30 A.M., two workers from the Jenin area came to a gap in the Separation Barrier east of the Barta’ah a-Sharqiyah enclave. After they crossed, the two noticed a military jeep advancing towards them from about a hundred meters away. They began to flee, but the soldiers fired a live bullet at them, hitting one worker, ‘Araba resident Yazid Daoud (23), in the legs.
In a testimony he gave on 7 February 2021, Daoud spoke about what happened that morning:
On Monday morning, I went to a gap in the Separation Barrier with my friend, who also works in Israel. I passed through the gap, and suddenly, a military jeep arrived. We had just started running, and one soldier fired a bullet at me from about 100 meters away. The bullet hit my legs. At first, I didn’t feel I’d been hit because of the shock and panic. I ran with my friend for about 100 meters and then started feeling pain and bleeding heavily.
Then my friend and some other guys who were there helped me get back through the gap and took me in a private car to a clinic in my village, ‘Araba. Sadly, the clinic was closed, so we called an ambulance that took me to the hospital in Jenin. At the ER, I was treated and x-rayed. I was discharged a few hours later, and the doctors ordered me to rest until I fully recover and scheduled a follow-up visit.
Later that day, at around 3:30 P.M., Silat al-Harithiya resident Wasim al-Kheir (25) came back from his work in Israel with other workers. When he tried to pass through the gap in the barrier, soldiers lying in ambush fired at his leg from about 150 meters to the west.
In a testimony he gave on 7 February 2021, he described what happened:
On Monday, at around 3:30 P.M., I was coming home with a group of other workers working in Israel. I reached the gap in the barrier and didn’t see any soldiers around. As soon as I tried to pass through the gap, I heard four or five shots. It turned out that a group of soldiers, I don’t know how many exactly, ambushed us about 150 meters away from the gap where we’d passed and fired at us without warning. One bullet hit my left foot. I fell down immediately and workers who were near me picked me up and carried me through the gap. They brought me to a private car that was parked there and drove me to the government hospital in Jenin.
At the hospital, they x-rayed me and took a bullet fragment out of my foot. There’s another fragment that the doctors preferred not to remove because they feared it would damage the foot. They put my leg in a cast and discharged me the same day to rest and recover. After the injury, I suffered from pain, and a doctor came to my house to monitor my condition.
10 February 2021 – the injuring of a 16-year-old at the Separation Barrier, Barta’ah a-Sharqiyah:
On Wednesday, 10 February 2021, at around 4:30 P.M., two cousins from Ya’bad came to the gap in the Separation Barrier east of the enclave. The two, S.’A. (16) and A.’A. (17) saw a group of workers returning from Israel through the gap and decided to cross as well. Immediately after S.’A. crossed the opening, security forces shot him in the leg from a vehicle that was about 100 meters away from the teens.
In a testimony he gave on 11 February 2021, S.’A. described what happened:
I advanced towards the opening in the barrier, and my cousin was behind me. As soon as I crossed through, a bullet hit me in the left leg. I ran a few meters back, and then noticed I was bleeding heavily. I couldn’t run anymore and fell to the ground. Several soldiers got out of the vehicle and ran towards me, but luckily, some workers and drivers who were there picked me up right away and took me by private car to a clinic in Ya’bad. From there, I was taken by ambulance to the government hospital in Jenin.
I was x-rayed at the hospital, and it turned out that the bullet had entered and exited through my left leg below the knee. My parents and family members came to the hospital. I stayed there for a few hours to receive treatment, and then I was discharged. The doctors didn’t want me to stay at the hospital, so I wouldn’t risk being infected with coronavirus.