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Palestinians declared dead turn out to be alive

For two weeks, Palestinian mother Basma Aweidat mourned after news that her son had been shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

Then she received a phone call telling her that 28-year-old Thayer had indeed been shot, but he was alive and being treated at a hospital in Israel.

“I couldn’t believe what they told me,” she said.

As violence escalates in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank, where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the past year, such stories of confused identities are rare but not unique.

In the case of Thayer Aweidat, the Israeli army launched a raid on February 6 at the entrance to the Aqabet Jaber refugee camp near Jericho, seeking suspects accused of committing an attack against Israelis.

The army said it had killed five “terrorists,” and an Israeli security official told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the army was holding the bodies of the dead Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority, which it said had been informed by the Israeli authorities, announced that Thayer Aweidat, a member of the armed wing of the Palestinian movement Hamas, was among the dead.

His photo was printed on posters pasted on the walls of the refugee camp along with other Palestinian “martyrs”, and condolences poured in.


Then Basma Aweidat’s phone rang.

It came from a cousin of hers, the mother of Alaa Aweidat, a young man who was reportedly injured in the same robbery and taken to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Except when she visited the hospital, she realized in shock that the injured man was not her child. It was Thayer Aweidat. He was in a serious condition and in a coma.

“I couldn’t believe he was alive,” said Basma, who applied for an Israeli permit to visit him.

“I saw him, his head bandaged and his body with several wounds,” she said. “I tried to talk to him, but he didn’t pick up.”

Back home in Aqabet Jaber, the same neighbors who had expressed their condolences days before returned.

“The women in the camp started congratulating me because my son is still alive, a few days after they came to mourn,” said Basma Aweidat.

Her husband, Khaled Aweidat, has not been allowed to visit his son.

“From what my wife told me, he is in serious condition and his death could be announced any minute,” he said.

As for Alaa Aweidat, his fate is unknown.

A relative told the family that he had seen him alive aboard an Israeli ambulance on February 6 after the fighting in the camp. But they haven’t heard from him since.

The military would only confirm that they had five bodies from the February 6 raid.

When asked about a possible mistake, neither the army, the police nor the Israeli Defense Ministry responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories would clarify the reason for the confusion.

The Palestinian Authority has not specified who from Israel is submitting the names of Palestinians killed in army operations.

“Similar numbers”

But this is not the only case like the Aweidats.

In October, a similar story unfolded in the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah, also in the West Bank.

The Basbous family mourned the death of their son Basel for two days after Palestinian officials said he was shot and killed by the Israeli army near Ramallah while driving with two other people, who also died.

But he wasn’t dead.

“I was unconscious and woke up two days later in the hospital with my legs and hands handcuffed,” said Basel Basbous.

The family received a call from a friend who had a relative who worked at Israel’s Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem.

“She called me to tell me that Basel was alive,” said his mother, Ataf Basbous.

The hospital said in a statement: “Due to the nature of his condition, it appears there was some confusion about his identity prior to being admitted for treatment.”

Ataf Basbous said: “Israelis treat us like numbers. They don’t care about families. My son was shot and he will be in hospital for 18 days before being released, but nobody cares if he hasn’t done anything.”

Basel Basbous is still being treated for injuries to his leg and hand at the hospital in Ramallah.

First called the “heroic martyr” like all Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, he has since become known as “the living martyr”.