The author thanks Maurice Hirsch, Jonathan Halevi, and “Abu Ali Express” for their contributions.
On April 10, 2022, The Telegram channel “Jenin Al-Qassam,” which serves armed Palestinian groups in the Jenin region, published instructions for “Jihad fighters” that deal with the use of children “to conduct visual observation and information gathering.”
Why Did They Die?
This is what 15 year-old #Palestinian Sadil was filming the moment she was shot by #Israeli soldiers in the forehead, her family told me. She is one of 91 Palestinians injured during an operation in #Jenin on Monday. pic.twitter.com/7kwd8c7BJM
— Nada AlTaher (@_NadaAlTaher) June 20, 2023
According to the Abu Dhabi journalist Nada Al Taher of CNNI and the National News, “This is what 15-year-old Palestinian Sadil Naghnaghia was filming when Israeli soldiers shot her.”
A screenshot from Jana Zakarna’s last video, taken from the roof of her apartment building after 10 pm on December 12, 2022, shows Israeli vehicles below. The picture was released on Palestinian media.3 Palestinian spokespersons claim she was on the roof looking for Lulu, her cat.
Militia Instructions to Its Jihadi Fighters in Jenin
According to Middle East analyst Jonathan Halevi, the Telegram channel “Jenin Al-Qassam” is a central source of communication and information for the armed groups in the area of Jenin. On April 10, 2022, the Telegram published instructions for the mujahideen (“Jihad fighters”), which included a section dealing with the “use of children and residents to conduct visual observation and information-gathering.” (Emphasis added) 4
The Telegram channel “Jenin Al-Qassam,” which serves armed Palestinian groups in the Jenin region, published instructions for “Jihad fighters” that deal with the use of children “to conduct visual observation and information gathering.”
The Telegram channel also noted that Jenin has a network of observation units staffed by “young people” assisting terrorist groups by “documenting on video and delivering reports about the activities of IDF forces.”
Below is the translation of the guidelines document (originally in Arabic):7
To our brothers and the crown of our head, the jihad fighters all over the Jenin district, the city, the village, and the [refugee] camp that stand firm. You must know that nowadays, you are the tip of our spear and sail, and thanks to you, there is hope in us after [our trust in] Allah. From this, we hope, in our eyes, that you stay vigilant and cautious, gain experience and learn from it since there are no more evident conclusions and lessons than those engraved in the blood that was shed, and therefore [you must]:
- Stay away from phones and social media and find other means of communication [emphasis added]
- Divide roles and avoid gathering together
- Do not shoot without cover
- Do not move without cover
- Be alert for [IDF] snipers
- Don’t be drawn into the deceptions of the enemy who wants to take you out [of your hiding place] so that you will be a target for snipers
- Use children and residents to observe and gather information
- Prepare ambushes
On March 7, 2022, the channel noted, “We have couriers and observation units, and we see everything. So calm down and don’t spread rumors.” 8
On February 18, 2022, Jenin al-Qassam published the following instructions for the young Palestinians [spotters] who are assigned to observe the activities of the IDF forces in the Jenin area: “Young people, do not take your eyes off the [Israeli] Dotan checkpoint. There are special observation units to monitor Dotan, and the checkpoint is subject to 24-hour observation. We will keep you informed of any new [development]. Monitor [the checkpoints] al-Salam and al-Jalameh. May Allah protect them all.” 9
What Is a “Spotter?”
Here is an example of a military spotter’s work. An IDF soldier in a spotters’ unit observed five PLO naval commandos come ashore at an Israeli beach in 2014. She called in artillery, helicopter, and infantry support. The cell was wiped out.5
In regular armies, a sniper team usually consists of two soldiers: a shooter and his or her spotter. In asymmetrical warfare, such as the fighting in Vietnam, Iraq, southern Lebanon, Gaza, and Jenin, the deadly bomb “team” (for improvised explosive devices [IEDs], roadside bombs, and suicide car bombs), is larger and includes a bomb maker, an emplacer, a triggerman, a spotter, and often a videographer.6, 7
Studies on asymmetrical warfare, where the combatants are not soldiers in an organized national army, have discussed the “direct participation in hostilities” or “DPH.” The issue as it relates to Palestinian “civilian fighters” – and children – was recently raised by Maurice Hirsch, Director of PA Accountability and Reform Initiative at the Jerusalem Center and IDF former head of the military prosecution in Judea and Samaria: “While soldiers of the enemy are considered legitimate targets for attack, civilians enjoy immunity from intentional targeting. The question then arises of how to deal with people – such as the Palestinian terrorists – who are not enlisted in a regular army but actively participate in the hostilities.”8 Such as members of the IED and road bomb teams.
The International Red Cross discussed the issue: A civilian qualifies as having “direct participation in hostilities” if the act is “likely to adversely affect the military operations or military capacity of a party to an armed conflict… There must be a direct causal link between the act and the harm likely to result either from the act or from a coordinated military operation of which that act constitutes an integral part (direct causation) …”9
The U.S. Department of Defense’s “Law on War Manual” (updated in July 2023) could not be more explicit.10 Civilians’ spotters are combatants.
220.127.116.11 Examples of Taking a Direct Part in Hostilities. The following acts are generally considered taking a direct part in hostilities that would deprive civilians who perform them of protection from being made the object of attack.
- providing or relaying information of immediate use in combat operations, such as acting as an artillery spotter or member of a ground observer corps or otherwise relaying information to be used to direct an airstrike, mortar attack, or ambush; and acting as a guide or lookout for combatants conducting military operations.
An American army veteran succinctly said in an online chat group: “Make an IED inactive with the death of the spotter.”
In recent months, Palestinian militias in the West Bank have introduced improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and roadside bombs into their arsenal. Palestinian spotters alert other units of the approach of an Israeli vehicle so ambushes can be set and roadside bombs planted and triggered. Spotters can also detonate bombs remotely. Often the IED bomb squad is accompanied by a photographer, as was the case in the photographs below.
“The Palestinian militants studied the entry and exit methods of the undercover forces from the camp and planted explosive devices there with large payloads,” according to Israeli Channel 13 military affairs correspondent Alon Ben-David.11
A Palestinian IED team in Jenin – including a spotter and a videographer – damaged this IDF troop carrier Israel on June 19, 2023. Pictured below is the Israeli troop carrier one second before a roadside explosion and the moment the vehicle was hit.12
Two days later – perhaps by coincidence – Sadil Naghnaghia was killed.
The Lesson Learned: Do Not Transmit from Cellphones on the Battlefield
The Jenin Telegram’s advice to its militia members is wise and applies to journalists as well, particularly near a battlefield:
- Stay away from phones and social media and find other means of communication.
- Be alert for [IDF] snipers.
One can surmise from the Jenin militants’ instructions that Israeli security services search for transmissions by enemy spotters doing “overwatch” before and during military operations, such as entering a hostile town. Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) can pinpoint an enemy transmitter but cannot necessarily identify the individual conducting the overwatch. Israeli counter-intelligence fighters looking for transmissions cannot ascertain if the spotter is 35 years old or 15, a trained fighter, a high school student, or even a member of the press. Wearing a “PRESS” vest may not matter. But the counter-intelligence soldiers can view the transmitted video intelligence and determine if the data and the spotter endanger friendly troops and vehicles. To paraphrase a Talmudic maxim: It is not the Gavra (person who is transmitting); it is the Cheftsa (the material being transmitted).
Terrorists do not abide by any rule of press immunity. Thus, during the 2018 Gaza war, Yasser Murtaja, a member of the “press,” was using his camera drone to photograph Israel’s front lines and transmit his videos. When he was shot and killed, journalists worldwide were furious at Israel – even after Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh mourned him and it was learned he was a Hamas officer.14
The Funeral Show
The “Shireen [Abu Aklah] Observatory produced a similar poster of the Jenin casualties.” The names of the casualties appear in Arabic, but the martyrs have been “disarmed;” all weapons were excised from the photographs.16
The biggest funeral “production” was reserved for 15-year-old Sadil Naghnaghia.
Curiously, his picture was photoshopped from a well-publicized picture of his daughter (below). Why? Perhaps because the Naghnaghia clan was known for its militant activities? The teenager grew up in a militant household, with two “martyred” cousins and three others imprisoned in Israel.18 Or because of his macabre presence at his daughter’s funeral preparations in the morgue, seen in an enlargement of the photo of her body on the pathologist’s table. Was he remorseful or proud of her heroic PIJ service? How much will he be rewarded in the Palestinian “pay to slay” program?
But the Funeral Show Was Just Beginning. Next, a Change of Costume
First, Sadil Naghnaghia’s body, draped in PIJ shrouds, was borne by Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunmen out of the morgue.
Next, in the shade, came the transfer of the stretcher from the PIJ fighters to the dead girl’s school contemporaries.
Before the next act, however, Naghnaghia’s PIJ shrouds had to be covered with her schoolgirl costume — with the last touches covering her headband.
Below are pictures of the second half of Sadil Naghnaghia’s funeral after a school uniform almost covered her PIJ shroud, and keening schoolgirls replaced the PIJ pallbearers who withdrew to the back rows.
The Funeral “Show” Was a Propaganda Success
Some of the headlines and news stories around the world read:
“In the school uniform. Dozens of girls participate in the funeral of Sadeel Ngngniyeh.”
“Israeli occupation forces martyred a 15-year-old Palestinian teenager in the city of Jenin. The young girl’s body was carried by her school friends.”
“Her colleagues carry her on their shoulders. Funeral of the martyr Sadeel Ngngniyeh.”
What Did Sadil Naghnaghiya Want?
In the days after the teenage spotter’s death, intelligence analyst “Abu Ali” collected her Facebook and WhatsApp postings. Several appear below in their translated version:20
Sadil publicly expressed her desire for martyrdom more than once. Her friends and her surroundings knew this. One of her friends wrote this morning: “You asked to die a martyr’s death with all your heart and with full intent…. Congratulations on achieving what you wanted, but you burned our hearts…”
In a Facebook post, Sadil Naghnaghiya wrote, “We do not love the death of martyrs… the death of martyrs loves us…”
In another WhatsApp correspondence, Sadil asked one of her friends to say, “May Allah have mercy on you…. I will die a martyr.”
* * *
Jonathan Halevi, https://jcpa.org/the-tragic-palestinian-childrens-crusade/↩︎
See job descriptions: A bomb builder makes the devices, an emplacer hides the bombs, a spotter watches for the approach of military targets, a triggerman detonates IEDs using devices like cell phones or garage-door openers, a cameraman tapes the mayhem for online recruitment. Battling the Low-Tech Boom – Mother Jones↩︎
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBL1f1n1N6Y A copy of this video was sent to The Palestine Chronicle. “The Palestinian Resistance group Saraya Al-Quds, Jenin Battalion, provides evidence of the massive explosion that rocked one of Israel’s most fortified military vehicles. https://www.palestinechronicle.com/explainer-on-what-happened-in-jenin-and-the-possibility-of-a-full-israeli-attack-on-west-bank/↩︎
https://twitter.com/m7mdkurd/status/1676616541469589505 , Viewed on August 15, 2023↩︎