Ramallah, April 6, 2017—Israeli forces gunned down Ahmad Ghazal, 17, in the Old City of Jerusalem after the teen committed a stabbing attack on April 1, in what may amount to an extrajudicial killing.
Ahmad, a 17-year-old Palestinian teen from the Ras Al-’Ain neighborhood in the northern West Bank Nablus governorate, stabbed and wounded two Israeli men on Al-Wad street in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City last Saturday afternoon. He then fled into a nearby building, according to witnesses, where Israeli paramilitary border police pursued and opened fire on him, killing him.
"Israeli forces now appear to routinely resort to the use of intentional lethal force in situations not justified by international norms, which in some incidents amount to extrajudicial killings," said Defense for Children International - Palestine’s Accountability Program Director, Ayed Abu Eqtaish. “If a child is suspected of committing a criminal act, they should be apprehended in accordance with international standards and afforded due process of law.”
An eyewitness told DCIP he saw Ahmad stab an Israeli man in the back with a knife, and then engage in an altercation with a second Israeli man before fleeing the scene. Paramilitary border police quickly arrived and pursued the teen into a building, according to the eyewitness. Moments later, he heard multiple gunshots. On exiting, one border police appeared to have a leg injury, the witness said.
A bystander's video footage, published by local media, shows an Israeli man with a blood-stained shirt walking away from a group of around five armed Israeli paramilitary border police as they enter a building. At least 14 shots can be heard moments after Israeli forces entered the building.
Israeli forces prevented ambulances and medical personnel from entering the building for several hours, the witness said. After this period, the witness saw border police drag the teen’s body out of the building and place it in a black bag.
An Israeli police spokesperson confirmed two Jewish men, aged 18 and 20, sustained minor injuries from the attack.
International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable where there is a threat to life or serious injury. Where individuals allegedly carry out a criminal act, they should be apprehended in accordance with international law and afforded due process of law.
Israeli forces routinely employ the use of excessive force and intentional lethal force in situations not justified by international norms, which in some incidents may amount to extrajudicial or wilful killings, according to documentation collected by DCIP.
Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, increasingly targeted Palestinians, including children, with live ammunition to quash protests since the beginning of 2014.
In response to escalating violence in 2015, Israeli authorities relaxed open-fire rules, allowing Israeli forces to use live ammunition during protests in Jerusalem when there is a “threat to life.” Previously, live ammunition was permitted only when there is a direct, mortal threat to the life of a police officer or soldier.
In 2016, Israeli forces and security guards killed 32 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, making it the deadliest year of the past decade for West Bank children, according to DCIP research.
In September of 2016, Amnesty International sent a memorandum to Israeli authorities concerning 20 cases where Israeli soldiers, border police, police or private security guards may have unlawfully killed Palestinians. The memorandum highlighted cases where Palestinians were fleeing, wounded or unarmed when killed. “In at least 15 of the cases, Palestinians were deliberately shot dead, despite posing no imminent threat to life, in what appear to be extrajudicial executions,” Amnesty International reported.
The unclear circumstances surrounding Ahmad's Ghazal's death merit an impartial, independent investigation into the moments leading up to the Israeli border police's use of lethal force.
However, accountability is extremely rare in cases where Israeli forces are accused of committing crimes against Palestinians. Israeli rights group Yesh Din reported that over half of 186 internal investigations opened in 2015 regarding Israeli soldiers suspected of harming Palestinians, were closed without any further steps. Only four investigations (3.1 percent) yielded an indictment.