Palestinian shepherd acted in self-defense by killing settler
Palestine-Israel, Judicial, 4/20/1998
Israel officially admitted that the shooting to death of a settler near Hebron on Sunday was an incident related to criminal law and had no national motives.
In other words, the Israeli official version of what happened near the Jewish settlement of Maon near Hebron is totally different than that of the Jewish settlers who claimed they were victims of what they termed Palestinian terrorism.
Israeli police chief commissioner Yehuda Vilek told the cabinet on Monday that Israel's security services, Shin Bet, had ruled the incident was not "an act of terror" but a criminal law-related scuffle. Jewish settlers, however, argued to the contrary and they claimed the Palestinian shepherds were there from the beginning with the intention of killing Jewish settlers.
A Likud Knesset member even called on the Israeli army to change its open fire regulations so that settlers get a freer hand in their disputes with the Palestinians. MK Uzi Landau said the regulations that were drafted by former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair need to be changed soon. He said he wanted new regulations that will ease the current restrictions on opening fire but without facilitating trigger happiness among the settlers.
Dov Driben, 29, was shot dead during a land dispute that erupted between Jewish settlers and a number of Palestinian shepherds who grazed their flocks of sheep in their land in an area adjacent to the Jewish settlement of Maon near Hebron. Two other settlers were wounded. At least four Palestinians were wounded from gunshots. One of them was said to be in serious condition.
Israeli military officers on Sunday night were busy discussing the legal implications of the fighting between the two sides. Many of them believe the barn the slain Driben set up in the area was not legal and was a cause of concern for the Palestinians who have been demanding their land back from the Israeli military government. The barn was built on confiscated Arab land, which became under the control of the military government.
Palestinian sources, in the meantime, said a manhunt against those shepherds involved in the clash is still going on, but they stressed that from what they know, the Palestinian shepherd who opened fire at Dov Driben had acted out of self-defense. "It was the two settlers who came in wielding their guns and they were ready to shoot the Palestinians. It was a life-threatening situation for many of those shepherds and apparently one of them was fast enough in his reaction and managed to snatch the gun from the settler," sources in Hebron said. "Imagine what would have happened if the Palestinian shepherd had failed to take the gun. We would be holding today funerals for our relatives," said one resident of nearby Yatta town, where the shepherds reportedly live.
Yatta is considered Area B under the Oslo Agreement, where security control is in Israel's hands while the Palestinian government is in charge of civil affairs. Israel had reportedly arrested nine Palestinian suspects, one of them having blood spots on his hands and clothes and signs of gunpowder. It is not clear if those arrested were the same shepherds who were involved in the incident.
Israeli justice minister Tzahi Hanegbi called on the Palestinian government to extradite to Israel those responsible for the shooting of Driben. But there are no signs that the Palestinian government would accede to the Israeli request. According to Palestinian sources, once those involved in the incident are arrested, they will be questioned and only then a decision will be taken as to whether to proceed with legal procedures against them.
Officials of the Maon settlement claim that this wasn't a conflict between shepherds, but rather, the attempts of local Arabs to take over the lands of the settlement. The Palestinians, said a statement by the settlers council, had planned their ambush against three residents of the Jewish settlement, who worked on the farm. In reaction to the shooting, Jewish settlers said they would set up a new settlement on the site but on Monday morning, Israeli troops tried to prevent them from bringing prefabricated houses to the area.
The scuffle with the settlers started Sunday morning when a group of Palestinian shepherds approached the disputed land slot along with their flocks of sheep. Dov Driben came out and yelled asking them to leave. Two other settlers came to his aide, and both were wielding their guns. It is not clear exactly how many Palestinian shepherds attacked the two settlers and took their guns.
Israeli press reports on Monday said one shepherd grabbed the guns of the two settlers and shot at the head of Dov Driben. Yehoshafat Tor, one of the other two, was shot in his head and right thigh. He was taken by helicopter to the Soroka hospital in Beer Sheba, where his condition was reported moderate. Ephraim Pearl, the second settler, tried to chase after the Palestinians but was attacked by stones and clubs. He ran to the farm, took an M-16 rifle, and opened fire at the shepherds. Four Palestinians were wounded, one of them seriously. Pearl was transferred to Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital and released shortly afterwards.
Musa Khalil Ahmed Dabasha, a Palestinian shepherd who was hit by three bullets in the chest, is owner of the disputed land on which the Maon farm is located. Yatta mayor Younes Khalil said yesterday that Musa Dabasha went to his land with some of his relatives and his flocks, but "it was Dov who blocked his way."
"They argued, and then one of the settlers shot him three times and wounded him. Blows were exchanged, and then Dabasha's relatives grabbed the weapons of the settlers," said Khalil.
The conflict between the settlers of the small farm and the Palestinians living in the area began soon after the farm was established a year ago. Prior to the establishment of the farm, the landowners reclaimed their land from the military authorities, which had declared the area state-land.
Some eight months ago a group of Palestinians from the town of Yatta, south of Hebron, came to the contested area, and with them came a Jewish civil rights group calling itself "Rabbis for Human Rights." Those were Jewish rabbis from different streams of Judaism who are concerned at violations of Palestinian human rights by Israel. The Palestinians and their Jewish supporters held a demonstration on the site and the settlers fired their weapons, triggering a clash between the two sides. Palestinians beat Yehoshafat Tor, who was wounded in the Sunday clash, and had his gun snatched from him. Following the event from eight months ago, the Israeli army confiscated the settlers' weapons and returned them after they checked them.
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