Ramallah, November 12, 2014—Israeli police arrested on Tuesday a border policeman suspected of fatally shooting Nadeem Nawara, 17, six months ago near Ofer military prison in the West Bank city of Beitunia.
The border policeman, whose name has not been released, is alleged to have fired the live ammunition that killed Nawara on May 15, 2014, following a demonstration to mark Nakba Day, commemorating the “catastrophe” of the 1948 war, and expressing solidarity with hunger striking prisoners held in administrative detention by Israel. Video footage captured by a security camera and released by Defense for Children International-Palestine clearly shows that although Nawara threw stones at an earlier point in the demonstration, he posed no immediate threat to Israeli soldiers’ lives at the moment he was shot. The border policeman’s commander was also arrested for allegedly knowing that the border policeman had shot Nawara and failing to report the incident, according to Haaretz.
Despite initial claims from Israeli authorities that no live ammunition was fired by Israeli forces, an autopsy of Nadeem Nawara’s body, conducted on June 11 in the presence of both Israeli and international forensic pathologists, found that a live bullet was the cause of his death.
“This is an opportunity for Israel to prove to the world that it is a nation where law prevails,” Nadeem’s father, Siam, told DCI-Palestine. “I hope the investigation into the soldier who is accused of killing my son will be carried out with the same gravity as when a Palestinian is accused of killing an Israeli citizen.”
Two other Palestinian teens were also shot by live ammunition while taking part in the same demonstration that day. Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher, 16, was fatally shot in the chest and Mohammad Abdullah Hussein al-Azzeh, 15, sustained a gunshot injury to his back and left lung.
The US State Department urged the Israeli government to conduct a "prompt and transparent investigation.” Based on the footage collected by DCI-Palestine and other evidence, Amnesty International condemned the deliberate killing of the two boys as “[e]vidence of willful killings by Israeli forces of Palestinians in the West Bank, which would amount to war crimes.”
“The recent arrest of an Israeli border policeman alleged to have fatally shot Nadeem Nawara is a positive development,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program Director at DCI-Palestine. “However, past Israeli investigations into similar incidents have not inspired much confidence as they often lack transparency, independent review, and have rarely resulted in a soldier’s indictment.”
In March, Israeli forces shot and killed Yousef al-Shawamrah, 14, with live ammunition in the southern West Bank near his village of Deir al-Asal al-Fawqa. He was shot while looking for thistle in an area of land belonging to the village that now sits on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier. As he and two friends crossed through an open area, soldiers fired live ammunition toward the boys, hitting Yousef in the hip and back.
In July, Chief Israeli military prosecutor, General Danny Efrni, closed the investigation into the killing of Yousef. No warning shots were fired, but the prosecution found that, “the force prepared for the operation professionally and acted in line with rules for opening fire.”
Since the beginning of 2014, DCI-Palestine has documented ten child fatalities in the West Bank caused by live ammunition. The Israeli military’s own regulations dictate that live ammunition may only be used “under circumstances of real mortal danger,” but the regulations are not enforced and frequently ignored by Israeli soldiers.
This “policy of impunity” has enabled Israeli soldiers to use excessive force without punishment. An Amnesty International report found that 41 Palestinians had been killed by live ammunition in the West Bank between 2011 and 2013 alone. The same report cited findings that between September 2000 and June 2013, only 16 investigations ended in indictment of Israeli soldiers.
DCI-Palestine also spoke with Mahmoud Abu Daher, Mohammad’s father, who sees the arrest of the policeman who fired live ammunition at his son and killed Nadeem as a step toward accountability. He calls on “the international bodies to monitor the court proceeding to ensure justice is served for their wrongful deaths.”