Ramallah, October 24, 2016—A recently recovered teenage eyewitness has contested the Israeli authorities’ allegation that Firas Moussa Mohammad Khaddour, 17, was committing a car ramming attack on September 16, when Israeli soldiers fatally shot him.
Raghad K., 17, was riding in the car on Route 60, a road connecting Hebron and Bethlehem to Israeli settlements, when her cousin, Firas, lost control of the car. He drove through the entrance to Kiryat Arba settlement at high speed, crashing in front of a bus stop. Israeli soldiers nearby opened fire on the car, killing Firas and critically wounding Raghad.
“With the car stopped and disabled, it presumably no longer posed any imminent threat to Israeli forces or others nearby,” said Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at DCIP. “If Israeli forces fired on the vehicle and killed the driver after the car crashed into the bus stop, this constitutes the unlawful use of intentional lethal force.”
Raghad was hospitalized at Shaare Zedek medical center in Jerusalem for two weeks, the first few days of which she spent in critical condition in the intensive care unit, all the while handcuffed to the bed and under 24-hour guard. She underwent two surgeries to treat a gunshot wound to her stomach.
Now in recovery, Raghad told Defense for Children International - Palestine in her sworn testimony that the car Firas was driving had unreliable brakes. Despite this, the two teenagers regularly cruised around their village, Bani Na’im, in the southern West Bank governorate of Hebron, and down Route 60, a spacious highway where they could drive fast.
Raghad told DCIP that on the day of the incident, having sped down Route 60, Firas turned the car around and started driving home. As they approached the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, Firas attempted to slow the car down, but the handbrakes and steering failed.
“Firas began slowing down, but the brakes were not responding at all. The car’s speed was increasing, and he tried to use the handbrakes to stop but that did not work out either,” Raghad told DCIP. “I was very scared, and the scary part was that we were approaching the entrance of the settlement.”
The car entered the settlement, crashing into a barrier in front of a bus stop where Israeli soldiers and others were standing. Moments after the crash, Israeli soldiers opened fire on the car from all directions.
“Firas bumped his head against the steering, and I heard gunshots fired at Firas.” Raghad said. “Soldiers quickly and randomly opened fire at him, but then they opened fire at the car from all directions. I noticed that Firas had been shot on the left side of his head and left side of his neck.”
While hospitalized, Raghad was interrogated for approximately one hour without the presence of a parent of lawyer. She also told DCIP that an Israeli settler entered her room and threatened to kill her on one occasion.
After her hospital release, Raghad underwent rehabilitation in the Palestine medical complex in Ramallah to try to recover leg mobility lost when shrapnel from a bullet struck her spinal cord.
Israeli forces killed three other Palestinian boys between September 16 - 20, during the most concentrated period of deadly violence in the West Bank since June.
In a separate incident on September 16, Israeli soldiers fatally shot Mohammad Thalji Kayid Thalji al-Rajaby, 15, after he allegedly stabbed an Israeli soldier in Hebron’s Old City. Three days later, on September 19, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Amir Jamal Ahmed al-Rajaby, 16, near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron while he allegedly brandished a knife. DCIP investigations were unable to located any eye-witnesses to either of these two incidents.
The following day, Israeli soldiers shot 15-year-old Issa Salem Mahmoud Tarairah at a checkpoint near Bani Na’im after he was allegedly seen carrying a knife. Baha M., a paramedic with the Palestinian Red Crescent, told DCIP that he did not see a knife on the scene when he arrived. Baha M. stated that Issa showed no decipherable signs of life but Israeli soldiers prevented him from assessing Issa’s vital signs, or providing him with medical assistance. After 45 minutes, Issa’s body was placed in a body bag.
According to DCIP figures, 58 Palestinian children from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza have been killed since October 5, 2015, all except four at the hands of Israeli forces. Of those, 42 were accused of attempting to commit some form of an attack.
In several cases, DCIP found that children did not pose a direct, mortal threat at the time they were killed, suggesting that Israeli forces are implementing a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy. Israel routinely defends or denies using lethal force against children and accountability is extremely rare.