Palestinian anti-occupation activist and community leader, Al-Haj Suliman al-Hathalin, died on Monday, January 17, two weeks after being hit and run over by a tow truck that was accompanied by Israeli forces. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the truck struck al-Hathalin during a raid on his village, Umm Al-Khair, in Masafer Yatta, in the occupied West Bank. It ran over the 75-year-old resistance activist on January 5 when Israeli forces entered his village to confiscate unregistered and allegedly stolen vehicles. The tow truck drove away after running over the senior activist with both “its front and back wheels”, according to his relative, Hazem al-Hathalin.
In a statement, the Israeli anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence wrote: “After running over Haj Suliman, the truck immediately left, without calling an ambulance. Hit and run, courtesy of Israel Police. That’s what happens when Palestinian life has virtually no value in the eyes of the occupier.” According to Breaking the Silence, “this isn’t the first time the Israeli authorities have left a Palestinian severely injured in their quest to confiscate Palestinian property, all in order to enforce the occupation.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemned the killing, labeling it a “criminal execution”. The ministry committed to bringing the case to the International Criminal Court and relevant UN bodies, adding: “This is another episode in a series of field executions carried out by the occupation forces that follows the directives of the political and military leadership of this occupying country. It is a reflection of the brutality and racism of the occupation in its suppression and abuse of defenseless Palestinian civilians participating in peaceful marches in defense of their lands in the face of settlements and settlers.
According to Fouad al-Hmour, the coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committees in Masafer Yatta, “Suliman was standing on the side of the road when the tow truck suddenly veered off the road and drove straight into him”. Al-Hmour revealed that the tow truck belonged to a private company, and the driver was recognized by Palestinian villagers as an Israeli settler from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Carmel. According to media reports, the truck was accompanied by Israeli security forces. After the attack, Al-Hathalin was rushed to the al-Mizan hospital in Hebron with life-threatening injuries to his head, chest, abdomen and pelvis, including multiple fractures and a brain hemorrhage. He was put on a ventilator and in an induced coma while doctors tried and failed to save his life. He was pronounced dead on Monday morning. His family announced that they will be filing a lawsuit against the Israeli police for excessive force.
Al-Hathalin was a legendary figure of the Palestinian resistance in the area. He was slender, frail, and elderly, yet extremely active and passionate when it came to resistance activities such as protests and marches. He was also brutalized and detained by Israeli forces multiple times, despite his old age. He had been living in Umm Al-Khair since 1965, when his family purchased a plot of land and moved there from the Arad area in the Southern West Bank, after spending many years as displaced, homeless refugees in the aftermath of the Nakba of 1948. al-Hathalin was known for his hospitality, giving visitors to the area a history lesson complete with maps and aerial photographs, which doubled as evidence for the historical Palestinian presence in the area.
Al-Hathalin’s documents and knowledge of history also showed how the illegal Israeli Carmel settlement was built in 1980 at the expense of Palestinian land which was forcibly confiscated and annexed, a substantial part of which used to belong to the al-Hathalin family. His family bore the brunt of illegal Israeli home demolitions against their property when authorities claimed the property was built too close to the Israeli settlement.
The confiscation and annexation of Palestinian lands and the resulting displacement and expulsion of Palestinians from the area continues to this day. Authorities have moved and continued to move hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers to settlements in the area, as well as the rest of occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in complete violation of international law.