Palestinian youths take cover from tear gas fired by Israeli forces during clashes at the main entrance of the West Bank town of Bethlehem on October 6, 2015. (Photo: AFP / Musa al-Shaer)
Ramallah, October 8, 2015—Jewish settlers shot two Palestinian teenagers, critically wounding one of them, during clashes at the Hilwa Tomb bridge, near the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, on Wednesday.
Mujahid Abu Sarhan, 17, sustained a gunshot wound to the chest. Mujahid’s father, Naim, told DCIP that his son underwent surgery and remains in a critical condition. Also injured was Suhaib Hasasneh, 15, who took a bullet to the right leg. Doctors described his condition as stable.
Defense for Children International – Palestine is investigating the circumstances that led to the shooting amid conflicting reports.
A growing number of Palestinian children and their families live in West Bank villages and towns hemmed in by expanding and often violent Israeli settler communities. Israeli soldiers, police, and private security firms protect settler populations at the expense of Palestinian civilians.
According to the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), violence perpetrated by settlers resulted in 53 Palestinian casualties between January and September this year.
“Israeli officials have been encouraging those with gun licenses to carry firearms, including many settlers who have government-issued arms, and relaxing rules on the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “In this hyper-militarized environment, without a semblance of accountability for wrongdoing, disproportionate violence is inflicted on Palestinian children.”
On Tuesday, Israeli forces shot and seriously wounded Mohammad Omar Nakhleh, 17, at a checkpoint near Jalazoun refugee camp, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah, during clashes. The bullet went through his back and into his stomach.
Mohammad had severe blood loss, according to his medical report, and underwent surgery at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah. Doctors described his condition as stable, but kept him under intensive care.
Tensions over access to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City escalated into lethal attacks across East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank. The mosque lies in a compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Both faiths consider the site sacred.
Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian boy near Aida refugee camp, north of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on Monday. Witnesses said the boy was not involved in the confrontations taking place at the time.
A preliminary investigation by the Israeli army found that 13-year-old Abdel-Rahman Obeidallah was shot by mistake, according to Israeli news media. A senior army official said, "A Ruger bullet was fired and did not strike well," Ynetnews, an Israeli news website, reported.
Hundreds of Palestinians have sustained injuries at the hands of Israeli forces over the past few days, according to news reports. At least 48 Palestinian children have been injured since Friday last week, based on DCIP’s initial data.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Palestinian children have endured heightened levels of violence in recent years, as Israeli soldiers and police use excessive force to quash protests. Since 2014, 16 Palestinian children in the West Bank have died at the hands of Israeli forces, all except one with live ammunition. None of those children posed a direct, mortal threat to the life of the police officers or soldiers who shot them.
The failure of Israeli authorities to properly investigate and hold perpetrators accountable provides Israeli forces with tacit approval to inflict maximum harm.
In recent weeks, Israeli officials amended open-fire rules to allow Israeli forces to fire live ammunition during protests in Jerusalem when there is a “threat to life.” Previously, the regulations permitted live ammunition only when there is a direct, mortal threat to the life of a police officer or soldier. The move comes as Israeli officials also push forward stricter sentencing guidelines and fines for stone-throwers.