Ramallah, November 2, 2016—Israeli forces shot an unarmed and suicidal child, Bara Esawi, 12, three times in the legs for failing to halt at Eliyahu checkpoint near Qalqilya, northwest of Ramallah in the West Bank, on September 21.
“In a case like this, where a child has attempted suicide by soldier, we are reminded that Palestinian children represent a vulnerable population,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International - Palestine. “The media narrative of Palestinian children as would-be attackers does not reflect the reality on the ground.”
Bara, who was carrying only school books in her backpack, told DCIP that she missed her aunt whom Israeli soldiers shot dead at the same checkpoint in November 2015 after she allegedly brandished a knife, and wanted to “join her.” As she approached the checkpoint, Bara said she became afraid and wanted to return, but the soldiers aimed their weapons at her and spoke to her in Hebrew.
“I stopped where I was because I did not understand what they wanted,” said Bara. “Suddenly, one of the soldiers shot me three times, once in my left leg and twice in my right leg. I fell to the ground and my books scattered all over the place.”
A military ambulance took Bara to Meir medical center in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba, where doctors informed her that she needed surgery to remove the three bullets lodged in her legs.
Bara spoke to a lawyer from DCIP from her hospital bed, while under guard by two Israeli soldiers. Bara said that nurses at the hospital were treating her badly and calling her a terrorist. She also reported that she was interrogated in the hospital without being informed of her rights, and without the presence of a lawyer or family member, and signed a statement without knowing its contents.
“The interrogator accused me of attempted stabbing against the soldiers at the checkpoint, but I denied it and told him I just wanted to get killed and that is why I came to the checkpoint carrying only my schoolbag, not a knife or a gun,” Bara told DCIP.
Israeli media initially misreported the incident as an attempted stabbing attack. However, following the shooting, the Israeli Defense Ministry issued a statement reporting that they found no traces of weapons when they searched Bara’s schoolbag, and the Israeli military court in Salem decided not to extend her detention.
The day before Bara was shot, 15-year-old Issa Salem Mahmoud Tarairah was fatally shot at a checkpoint near Bani Na’im after he was allegedly seen carrying a knife. A paramedic with the Palestinian Red Crescent told DCIP that he did not see a knife on the scene when he arrived to provide assistance.
Issa was killed during the most concentrated period of deadly violence in the West Bank since June, which saw four Palestinian boys killed by Israeli forces between September 16-20, three of them at checkpoints.
The fourth, Firas Moussa Mohammad Khaddour, 17, was fatally shot by Israeli soldiers after his car crashed at the entrance to the Israeli settlement, Kiryat Arba, on September 16. An eyewitness, who was in the vehicle at the time, told DCIP that Firas was not committing a ramming attack and that the crash was an accident.
A 2014 cross-sectional study published by the World Journal of Medical Sciences found that 25.28 percent of 720 Palestinian adolescents surveyed had attempted suicide. The paper stressed the need for stepped-up efforts “to reduce the escalating ideation and trend of suicide among the most vulnerable populations.”