The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank has seen a surge in violence over the past year, with more than 200 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Amidst the chaos, tales of muddled identities have emerged, with some families mourning the loss of loved ones only to discover they are still alive. One such story is that of Basma Aweidat, a Palestinian mother who was in mourning for two weeks after receiving news that her son, Thayer, had been shot dead by Israeli forces. However, she later received a phone call informing her that Thayer was alive and being treated at a hospital in Israel. The Israeli army had launched a raid near Jericho, searching for suspects accused of carrying out an attack against Israelis. The army claimed to have killed five “terrorists”, and the Palestinian Authority announced that Thayer Aweidat, a member of the armed wing of Hamas, was among the dead. His photograph was printed on posters plastered on the walls of the refugee camp, joining other Palestinian “martyrs,” and messages of condolences flooded in. However, it later emerged that Thayer was not dead but in a serious condition and in a coma. His mother applied for an Israeli permit to visit him and saw him with his head bandaged and his body with several wounds. She tried to speak to him, but he did not answer. Thayer’s father has not received permission to visit his son, and from what his wife tells him, he is in serious condition, and his death could be announced at any time. As for Alaa Aweidat, a young man who was reportedly wounded in the same raid and taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital, his fate is unknown. A relative told the family he saw him on board an Israeli ambulance and alive on February 6 after the fighting in the camp. But they have heard no word of him since. The army would confirm only that they had five bodies from the February 6 raid. Asked about a possible mistake, neither the army, police nor the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories would clarify the reason for the confusion.
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 told them he had been shot and killed by the Israeli army near Ramallah while driving with two other people who also died. But he was not dead. “I was unconscious, and I woke up two days later in hospital with my legs and my hands shackled,” Basel Basbous said. The family received a call from a friend who had a relative working at the Israeli Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem. “She called me to tell me … Basel was still alive,” said his mother, Ataf Basbous. The hospital said in a statement: “Due to the nature of his condition, it appears that some confusion ensued regarding his identity prior to admission for treatment.” Ataf Basbous said, “Israelis treat us like numbers. They don’t care about families. My son is shot, and he remains in hospital for 18 days before being released, but no one cares when he has done nothing.” Basel Basbous is still receiving treatment for injuries to his leg and hand in hospital in Ramallah. First called the “heroic martyr,” like all Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, he has since become known as “the living martyr.”
These cases highlight the confusion and chaos that can arise during violent conflicts. Families are left mourning loved ones who may still be alive or uncertain about the fate of their missing relatives. The lack of clarity from authorities only adds to their pain and suffering. It is essential that all parties involved take steps to ensure that such mistakes do not happen again and that families are given accurate information about their loved ones’ status. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been ongoing for decades, and it is time for both sides to work towards a peaceful resolution that respects the rights and dignity of all involved.