Israeli Forces Remove West Bank Sculpture Commemorating 2002 Massacre

The Israeli military has removed a 16-foot-tall sculpture known as the “Jenin Horse” during its recent raids on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Artist Thomas Kilpper’s 2003 public artwork titled “Al Hissan” (“The Horse” in Arabic) commemorates the Israeli offensive in the city that killed at least 52 Palestinians, half of them civilians, in 2002. 

On Monday, October 30, videos and photographs surfaced online showing a backhoe tearing down the refugee camp’s arching white gates and carrying the dismantled horse sculpture through the streets. It is unclear whether the artwork will be destroyed or stored. A week earlier, Israel hit Jenin’s Al-Ansar Mosque in an airstrike. 

Israel has killed over 100 people in the West Bank and over 8,306 Palestinians in Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 attack, which killed at least 1,300 Israelis. At least 11 Palestinians have been killed in Jenin in the last week.

The city of Jenin has faced a long history of loss. In 2002, as part of the Second Intifada that killed at least 4,228 Palestinians and 1,024 Israelis, Israel’s military occupied the city’s refugee camp for 10 days, destroying over 400 homes and displacing a quarter of the camp’s 16,000 residents.

In June 2003, Kilpper arrived in Jenin to create a sculpture in commemoration of the prior year’s violence. The German artist crafted the horse with the help of 12 young Palestinians selected from the city and refugee camp by a youth center and the United Nations, respectively. The artist gathered scrap metal from the homes and cars destroyed by Israeli forces and welded them together. 

On the side of the horse, a fragment of an ambulance door reads “Red Crescent Society,” the name of a Palestinian emergency company. In the 2002 attack, an Israeli tank shell hit this very vehicle and killed doctor Khalil Suleiman, who was evacuating a young girl from the refugee camp.

“The fact that the Israeli army has now destroyed our jointly created work of art in public spaces is outrageous and shows that war is a crime and war won’t bring a solution to this conflict,” Kilpper told Hyperallergic. “I feel terribly powerless in the face of the scale of destruction.” This July, months before the October 7 Hamas attack, Israeli offensives in Jenin killed at least 12 people, at least eight of whom were civilians and two of whom were children. As violence continues in Gaza, Israel has targeted a number of population centers in the West Bank.

The sculpture on view in Jenin last month (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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