Ramallah, September 27, 2021—Israeli forces shot and killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy after he allegedly picked up a gun and fired at an Israeli military vehicle during an early morning military raid on Sunday in the northern occupied West Bank.
Yousef Mohammad Fathi Odeh, 15, was shot and killed by Israeli forces after he allegedly picked up a gun discarded by a Palestinian gunman during an early morning raid on Burqin, a village three miles west of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank on September 26, according to information gathered by Defense for Children International - Palestine. An Israeli sniper shot Yousef multiple times after he reportedly picked up a firearm and fired at an Israeli military vehicle, according to DCIP’s investigation.
“Palestinian children live in a hyper-militarized context where the Israeli military's nighttime incursions into Palestinian communities to arrest and intimidate Palestinian civilians is the norm,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program Director at DCIP. “Israeli authorities must end policies of collective punishment, including confiscating and withholding Palestinian bodies in violation of international humanitarian law.”
Israeli forces raided Burqin around 3 a.m. on September 26 to conduct a search and arrest operation. Armed clashes ensued between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, according to information gathered by DCIP.
Around 7 a.m., the confrontation moved to the western entrance of the town. Yousef arrived on his motorbike at the site at same time a Palestinian gunman opened fire at Israeli soldiers, an eyewitness told DCIP. Israeli soldiers returned fire at the gunman, striking him in the leg. The gunman threw his weapon to the ground and fled, according to information gathered by DCIP.
Yousef allegedly crawled on the ground and picked up the weapon. At that moment, an Israeli sniper shot Yousef in the leg. Yousef dropped the gun, picked it up and fired two shots at an Israeli military vehicle located about 120 meters (400 feet) away, according to DCIP’s documentation. The Israeli sniper fired twice more at Yousef, striking him in the lower part of his body and in his head, likely killing him on the spot, according to information gathered by DCIP.
After he was shot, an Israeli military vehicle approached Yousef and ran over his body. A number of soldiers got out of the vehicle, put Yousef on a stretcher, loaded him into the vehicle, and left the site.
The Israeli army later notified Palestinian authorities who notified Yousef’s family that he was dead. Yousef’s body has not been returned to his family, according to information gathered by DCIP.
Yousef is the 13th Palestinian child shot and killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the beginning of 2021. Imad Khaled Saleh Hashash, 15, was shot and killed by Israeli forces on August 24 as Israeli forces conducted a raid in the Balata refugee camp located southeast of Nablus. Israeli forces shot Mohammad Mo’ayyad Bahjat Abu Sara on July 28, while he was a passenger in his father’s car. Israeli forces fired 13 bullets at the vehicle as it retreated from the area in which they were deployed.
Under international law, intentional lethal force is only justified in circumstances where a direct threat to life or of serious injury is present. However, investigations and evidence collected by DCIP regularly suggest that Israeli forces use lethal force against Palestinian children in circumstances that may amount to extrajudicial or wilful killings.
Israeli authorities’ practice of confiscating and withholding Palestinian bodies is a violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, which include absolute prohibitions on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, as well as stipulate that parties of an armed conflict must bury the deceased in an honorable way. For families, the practice amounts to collective punishment in violation of international humanitarian law.