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A man stands where the soldier stood when he shot Muhammad Hassan, who was on the house’s roof. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021
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Muhammad Hassan attempted to defend his brother's house from an invasion of settlers and soldiers – and paid for it with his life

Muhammad Hassan. Photo courtesy of family
Muhammad Hassan. Photo courtesy of family

On Saturday, 3 July 2021, at around 6:00 P.M., a group of about seven settlers, some masked and some armed with clubs, entered the village of Qusrah, southeast of Nablus. The settlers began throwing stones at the 'Odeh family home. Several villagers came to the area and threw stones back at the settlers to defend the home and drive them away. About 15 minutes later, four soldiers arrived, as well as some 20 settlers who joined the stone-throwing at the house. The soldiers did not lift a finger to stop the attack.

After a while, the settlers and soldiers walked towards a house under construction belonging to 'Ali Hassan and threw stones at it and a nearby house. 'Ali's brother, Muhammad Hassan (21), was working on the roof at the time and threw stones at the settlers in an attempt to fend them off. Other residents also threw stones at the settlers from a considerable distance.

Hassan, who found refuge behind a fence on the roof, was pelted with stones for several minutes, during which the soldiers and settlers stood near the house, apparently without genuine concern for their safety. While the stone-throwing at Hassan continued, one of the soldiers aimed his weapon at him and opened fire, hitting him in the shoulder. Hassan fell down on the roof. Immediately afterward, several settlers entered the ground floor and smashed floor tiles intended for the new house.

Damage caused by the settlers inside ‘Ali Hassan’s house. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021
Damage caused by the settlers inside ‘Ali Hassan’s house. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021

Residents who came to the area tried to go up to the roof to help Hassan, but the soldiers blocked them. It took about 10 minutes for the soldiers to go up to the roof with village residents to try to give Hassan CPR. About half an hour later, an ambulance arrived and evacuated Hassan to a hospital in Israel, where he died of his wounds later that day. Israel held his body for a month, and it was only returned to his family on 3 August 2021.

After Hassan's shooting, clashes broke out between the villagers and the soldiers and Border Police officers, who arrived at the scene and wounded three residents with rubber-coated metal bullets. After the incident, the military blocked two of the village entrances for about two weeks.

The roof of the house on which Muhammad Hassan was killed. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021
The roof of the house on which Muhammad Hassan was killed. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021

According to the military, Muhammad Hassan "Hurled a suspicious object, which exploded, from the roof of a building towards the forces." Yet B'Tselem's investigation indicates that this claim is incorrect, and that Hassan threw stones at a group of soldiers and settlers who invaded his village and attacked his brother's house as he was standing on its roof. The soldiers' fatal shooting of Hassan was carried out while he was defending his brother's home, without endangering the lives of any of the settlers or soldiers, as their behavior during the incident clearly indicates. Such shooting, in a case where there was no real and immediate danger to life, is unlawful and unjustifiable.

Over the last decade, B'Tselem has documented dozens of cases in which settlers from settlements and outposts near Qusrah attacked its residents and damaged their property – uprooting trees, torching vehicles, throwing stones at homes and cars, and in one case even setting fire to the village mosque. As in other cases, in this instance too, settler violence is not a local, sporadic initiative but, rather, part of Israel's policy, and it is aided and abetted by the escorts and protection the military provides for the settlers as it uses lethal force against Palestinians trying to defend their land and homes.  

The entrance to the village of Qusrah, blocked by the military an act of collective punishment. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021
The entrance to the village of Qusrah, blocked by the military an act of collective punishment. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021

'Awad ' Odeh, a 27-year-old resident of Qusrah, went up to the roof of his home when he heard a noise outside and saw the settlers approaching the house. In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i on 5 July 2021, he described what happened next:

‘Awad ‘Odeh. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021
‘Awad ‘Odeh. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021

During the settlers' attack, several village residents came and threw stones at them. Meanwhile, four soldiers arrived, and then more settlers showed up, increasing their numbers to thirty. The settlers kept throwing stones at our house, and then one of the soldiers fired at the house. The settlers then went towards a house under construction belonging to my neighbor 'Ali, which is 400 meters away. The soldier who fired earlier went ahead and fired at the young men who had come to push them back.

When the settlers reached 'Ali's house, they threw stones at it. From my roof, I saw one of the young men throwing stones at the settlers from the roof of Ali's house. I didn't recognize who it was, but I was sure that it was 'Ali or one of his brothers, who are there a lot. The young man, who I later found out was Muhammad Hassan, 'Ali's brother, was shielding himself from the settlers' stones behind a fence surrounding the roof. Then I heard shooting and saw Muhammad running on the roof and then falling. I realized he'd been hit. I went there immediately through a bypass road, away from the settlers. When I got there, several young guys who had come because of the announcements on the mosque loudspeakers were already there. They were throwing stones at the soldiers, who hurled tear gas canisters at them. The clashes in the village continued and spread to the main entrance.

Rizqallah Abu Rida (53), a resident of Qusrah, was working in his plot about 200 meters away from 'Ali Hassan's house when he heard shouting from the direction of the house. As he advanced there, he saw a soldier and several masked settlers armed with clubs throwing stones at the house. In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i on 5 July 2021, he recounted:

Rizqallah Abu Rida. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021
Rizqallah Abu Rida. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 July 2021

I saw a young man on the roof of the house throwing stones at the settlers to fend them off and defend the home. More settlers came from the direction of 'Awad 'Odeh's house, and there were already about 30 of them. Then I also noticed that there were three other soldiers there, behind the settlers. The soldier who was standing in front, ahead of the settlers, picked up his weapon and aimed it at the roof. The guy who was throwing stones shielded himself from the settlers' stones behind the roof's fence. As soon as his head appeared above the fence, the soldier shot him. I saw him backing away from the edge of the roof and disappearing from my sight, and then I heard the young men shouting that he'd been hit. Several settlers raided the house but drew back from the area after a few minutes. Some residents also tried to reach the house, but the soldiers wouldn't let anyone come near. Then several military jeeps and an ambulance arrived, and some soldiers and paramedics entered the house. After half an hour, the wounded man was evacuated by ambulance. In retrospect, we found out that it was Muhammad, 'Ali's brother, and that he had been martyred.