Ramallah, April 25, 2015—Israeli border police officers fatally shot a Palestinian teenager overnight at the Al-Zaayyem checkpoint in occupied East Jerusalem.
Paramilitary border police opened fire on Ali Abu Ghannam, 17, from the Al-Tur neighborhood of East Jerusalem, as he allegedly ran toward police officers stationed at the checkpoint. According to some reports, Abu Ghannam was wielding a knife. Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) is still investigating the exact circumstances surrounding the shooting.
“Israeli soldiers and police use excessive force systematically and with almost complete impunity against Palestinian youth,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “This tragedy comes on the heels of at least 30 children who have sustained injuries from the use of live ammunition so far this year.”
Speaking to DCIP, Ali’s mother said her son had left home earlier Friday night to attend a wedding. She first heard of a fatality over social media, and only knew that it was her son who had been shot when her husband and son-in-law went to Al-Zaayyem checkpoint and identified the body. Following the shooting, she said, Israeli forces raided the family’s home, searched her son’s room and the rest of the house, and detained his father.
The English-language website of the Israeli daily Haaretz provided a description of the incident based on the statement released by the Israeli police department: “The Palestinian arrived at the Al-Zayim checkpoint. He began running toward a number of police officers at a checking station wielding a large knife. He was pushed back by one of the officers, at which point he started running in the direction of the crossing. The officers shouted at him to stop, warning that they would shoot if he didn't. Combatants guarding the checkpoint saw the youth running toward them and shot him.”
Israeli authorities are currently refusing to release Ali’s body to the family for burial. Palestinian media reports have suggested that authorities are seeking an agreement that would allow a maximum of just 20 people to attend the funeral. The family has so far rejected these conditions.
At the time of writing, clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli police officers were taking place in Abu Ghannam’s neighborhood of Al-Tur, and shops had closed following the announcement of the death.
Ali became the first Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli forces this year. In 2014, Israeli forces shot dead 11 Palestinian children with live ammunition across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. At least 30 children have been injured with live ammunition so far this year: in each of those cases, DCIP could not find any evidence that the children involved posed a imminent threat.
Live ammunition is routinely used against children by Israeli policemen and soldiers, despite the Israeli military’s own regulations permitting its use only in circumstances in which a direct, mortal threat is posed to a soldier.
Only one incident last year resulted in both an investigation and an indictment. Israeli prosecutors brought manslaughter charges against the border police officer allegedly responsible for the death of Nadeem Nawara during May 15 protests commemorating the Palestinian Nakba—or 1948 “catastrophe.”