An Israeli border officer threatened to “gas you all until you die,” while speaking to the residents of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. While the mentality behind the officer’s threat is nothing new to Palestinians, the candor with which he spoke is.
In a one minute video recorded by a camp resident on Thursday, October 29, the officer used the loud speaker on an Israeli jeep crawling down a street in the camp and announced in Arabic: “People of Aida refugee camp, we are the occupation forces. You throw stones, and we will hit you with gas until you all die. The children, the youth, the old people – you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive.”
“We have arrested one of you,” the officer continued, referring to a twenty-five-year old Palestinian man who was arrested earlier that day. “He is with us now. We took him from his home, and we will slaughter and kill him while you watch if you keep throwing stones. Go home or we will gas you all until you die. Your families, your children, everyone – we will kill you.”
Israeli forces raided Aida camp earlier on Thursday, breaking up a protest and fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets in response to Palestinian youth throwing stones at the separation barrier. Another resident, Mohammed al-Azza, told Al Jazeera that an officer fired a tear gas canister at residents’ homes before making the announcement.
Azza noted that it was unusual for an Israeli officer to use the term “occupation force.” “This was something new,” he said to Al Jazeera. “I was sad and happy at the same time because I heard for the first time the [Israelis] saying they were the occupation, and this is good for countries outside to hear. [But] I was angry to hear them threaten to use tear gas and kill the people; there wasn’t any reason.”
Another resident, Akkram Huessni was wearing a gas mask and helping other residents find shelter when the announcement was made.
“It really shocked us, it is still hard for me to believe what I heard, that’s what everyone is saying too. We are really, really shocked, not that they would say these things, but that they said it loud and in public,” Huessni told Middle East Eye. “But the really scary thing is they aren’t just saying that – we saw today and we believe them: they want to kill people here.”
According to The Times of Israel, the officer who made the announcement was suspended from operational duty on Friday, October 30. Border police officials told Israeli Channel 2 news that the officer would face a review.
Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International commented on the increasing violence in Israel and Palestine: “There is mounting evidence that, as tensions have risen dramatically, in some cases Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures,” he said, according to Ma’an News.