JERICHO - For two weeks after Palestinian mother Basma Aweidat received the devastating news that her son had been shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, she was in mourning.
Then she got a phone call, telling her that while 28-year-old Thayer Aweidat had indeed been shot, he was alive and being treated at a hospital in Israel.
“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” said Mrs Aweidat.
Amid the chaos of surging violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank, such traumatic tales of muddled identities are rare but not unique.
In Mr Aweidat’s case, the Israeli army launched a Feb 6 raid at the entrance to Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near the West Bank city of Jericho, searching for suspects accused of carrying out an attack against Israelis.
The army said it killed five “terrorists”, and an Israeli security official then told AFP that the military was holding the bodies of the dead Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority, which said it was informed by Israeli authorities, announced that Mr Aweidat, a member of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement 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.
Then Mrs Aweidat’s phone rang.
It came from a cousin of hers, the mother of Mr Alaa Aweidat, a young man who was reported wounded in the same raid and who had been taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital.
Except that when she visited the hospital, she realised in shock that the wounded man was not her child. It was Mr Thayer Aweidat.
Wounded by gunfire, the latter was in a serious condition and in a coma.
“I couldn’t believe he was still alive,” said Mrs Aweidat, who applied for an Israeli permit to visit.
“I saw him, his head bandaged, and his body with several wounds. I tried to speak to him, but he did not answer.”
Back home in Aqabat Jabr, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, the same neighbours who days before had offered condolences returned.
“The women in the camp started coming to congratulate me because my son is alive, a few days after coming to mourn,” said Mrs Aweidat.
Her husband, Mr Khaled Aweidat, has not received permission to visit his son.
“From what my wife tells me, he is in serious condition and his death could be announced at any time,” he said.
As for Mr Alaa Aweidat, his fate is unknown.
A relative told the family he saw him aboard an Israeli ambulance and alive on Feb 6 after the clashes in Aqabat camp. But they have heard no word of him since.
The army would confirm only that they had five bodies from the Feb 6 raid.
Asked by AFP about a possible mistake, neither the army, police nor Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories, would clarify the reason for the confusion.
The Palestinian Authority did not specify who from Israel submits the names of Palestinians killed during army operations.
But it is not the only case.
In October 2022, a similar story unfolded in the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, also in the West Bank.
The Basbous family mourned the death of their son Bassel for two days, after Palestinian sources told them he had been killed by the Israeli army near Ramallah while driving with two others, 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,” Mr Bassel Basbous told AFP.
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... Bassel was still alive,” said his mother, Mrs Ataf Basbous.
The hospital said in a statement that “due to the nature of his condition, it appears that some confusion ensued regarding his identity prior to admission for treatment”.
Mrs Basbous said: “The 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.”
Mr Bassel Basbous is still receiving treatment for injuries to his leg and hand in hospital in Ramallah.
First nicknamed the “heroic martyr”, like all Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, he has since been known as “the living martyr”. AFP