A macabre tug of war over the body of a Palestinian militant on the Gaza-Israel border, captured on video in broad daylight on Sunday, February 23, triggered a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza that was met by retaliatory Israeli airstrikes late Sunday. Israel’s use of heavy machinery to abscond with the corpse of a militant earlier in the day drew harsh criticism, even inside the country.
An Israeli military bulldozer prevented Palestinian civilians from recovering the dead militant’s body. A paramedic from the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli troops opened fire at the civilians and wounded two as they were attempting to recover the body of a Palestinian militant who had been killed in an Israeli artillery attack the night before. The two wounded Palestinian civilians were rushed to hospital for medical treatment.
Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) slammed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday for his strong support of Israel soldiers’ use of a bulldozer to prevent the retrieval and burial of the body of 27-year-old Muhammed Ali al-Na’im. Calling Bennett “a minister of death and brutality,” Touma-Sliman said that Israel “steals a body, desecrates it by means of a bulldozer and still claims it has the most moral army in the world.” Al-Na’im was a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigade, in the area of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. He was killed on Sunday morning by Israeli soldiers when he allegedly placed an explosive device near the border fence. Bennett attacked the “hypocritical criticism of the Left,” and expressed support for how the Israeli military abducted the body.
The scene at the border drew harsh criticism within Israel. Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List), called the abduction of the body “an act of vampirism and of nauseating blood thirst. This is what Netanyahu and Bennett have to offer: siege, killing and the abduction of bodies,” he wrote on Twitter. “We must put an end to their death festivities.”
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to Israel’s chief military advocate general demanding a criminal investigation. It called the rough handling of the body a war crime and a “blatant violation of international criminal law, human rights and humanitarian law.” In the letter, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher detailed a series of international accords – including the Rome Statute, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, and The Hague Regulations – all of which classify the Israeli military action depicted in the video as a war crime and blatant violations of international criminal law, and international human rights and humanitarian law.