Israeli forces kill 17-year-old amid clashes over access to holy site

Israeli forces kill 17-year-old amid clashes over access to holy site

Jul 21, 2017
Israeli forces kill 17-year-old amid clashes over access to holy site

Israeli forces shot dead Mohammad Khalaf Lafi, 17, with live ammunition during clashes in Abu Dis on July 21.
Israeli forces shot dead 17-year-old Mohammad Khalaf Mahmoud Khalaf Lafi with live ammunition during clashes in the West Bank town of Abu Dis on Friday. (Photo credit: Huthifa Jamous)

Ramallah, July 21, 2017—Israeli forces shot dead a 17-year-old early Friday afternoon during clashes with Palestinian rioters in the West Bank town of Abu Dis, bordering East Jerusalem, according to information collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine.

Mohammed Khalaf Mahmoud Khalaf Lafi, 17, was shot dead with live ammunition during clashes near an Israeli military base in Abu Dis. He was transferred to the Palestine Medical Complex in the West Bank city of Ramallah and pronounced dead around 5 p.m. Medical staff confirmed to DCIP that Mohammad sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest.

Two other Palestinian youths were shot dead by Israeli forces and hundreds were injured when clashes broke out with Israeli forces during mass protests across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip on July 21. Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to demonstrate against recent restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities on Al-Aqsa mosque following an attack carried out by Palestinian gunmen at the site on July 14 that left two Israeli policemen dead.

“Israeli forces have increasingly used excessive force and live ammunition to squash demonstrations,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces appear to employ intentional lethal force, often in unjustified situations, with no accountability, putting more and more children at risk.”

Local sources reported some three thousand Israeli forces deployed in Jerusalem in preparation for protests Friday, as Israeli news outlets reported standard weekend leave was halted for members of the Israeli army in the West Bank. In addition to the three fatalities, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported 391 Palestinians injured, including children, by live ammunition and crowd control weapons.

Mohammad was the 11th Palestinian child killed since the start of 2017, as Palestinian fatalities and injuries increased over the past month. Among five Palestinians killed between July 4 and 18 was 16-year-old Aws Mohammad Yousef Salameh. Nine children were injured in the same time period during clashes with Israeli forces, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documentation.

Aws was shot in the abdomen on July 12 during a nighttime military raid in Jenin refugee camp. Following his death, DCIP demanded Israeli authorities carry out a transparent investigation into the alleged use of expanding bullets during the raid. Use of expanding and exploding bullets is a violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

In the hours before Mohammad’s death on Friday, 18-year-old Mohammad Mahmoud Sharaf, was reportedly shot and killed by an Israeli settler during clashes in Ras al-Amoud neighborhood, according to local news outlets. DCIP confirmed Sharaf was killed seven days after his 18th birthday. DCIP considers all persons below the age of 18 to be children in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Muhammad Abu Ghanam, 20, also succumbed to his wounds after Israeli police shot him in At-Tur, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. His body was hauled over a wall of Al-Makassed Hospital out of fear that Israeli forces who raided the hospital would confiscate his body.

Violence and instability that often result from tensions over access to the Al-Aqsa mosque, which lies in a compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, has long-defined life for Palestinian children living in the occupied Palestinian territories. Both faiths consider the site sacred.

In 2015, Israeli forces responded to unrest around the flashpoint site with harsh countermeasures and excessive force. Evidence collected by DCIP showed an increase in Israel’s use of live ammunition against children that year, while 2016 marked the deadliest year for Palestinian children living in the West Bank in a decade. In several cases, DCIP found that children did not pose a direct, mortal threat at the time they were killed.

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