Ramallah, January 14, 2024—Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian boys on Friday near an illegal Israeli settlement in the southern occupied West Bank.
Odai Ismail Yousef Abu Juhaisha, 17, and Mohammad Arafat Yousef Abu Juhaisha, 15, were shot and killed by Israeli forces after 8 p.m. on January 12 near the illegal Israeli settlement of Adora, located near the Palestinian city of Hebron, according to information collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. Odai, Mohammad, and 19-year-old Ismail Abu Juhaisha, all cousins, allegedly breached the outer fence surrounding Adora settlement carrying an M16 rifle and knives, and exchanged gunfire with an Israeli soldier. After searching the area, Israeli forces opened fire killing each of them. Israeli forces then confiscated Odai and Mohammad’s bodies.
“Palestinian children grow up between Israeli settlements and soldiers, where a hypermilitarized environment combined with systemic impunity empowers Israeli forces to shoot to kill Palestinian children with zero accountability for routine unlawful conduct,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “While the circumstances surrounding these killings merit an impartial, independent investigation, we know Israeli forces will do no such thing.”
Israeli forces later raided the homes of all three cousins causing extensive damage and arresting relatives from the Abu Juhaisha family, according to information collected by DCIP. A significant number of vehicles were also seized during the Israeli military incursion.
Israeli forces have killed five Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank in 2024, according to documentation collected by DCIP. An Israeli drone strike killed 17-year-old Wadea Yaser Hasan Asous in Jenin on January 7 and 17-year-old Usaid Tareq Anis Rimawi was shot and killed by Israeli forces on January 5 in Beit Rima. Ruqaya Ahmad Odeh Jahalin, four, was shot in the back by Israeli forces around 5:30 p.m. on January 7 while sitting in the backseat of a shared taxi van near an Israeli military checkpoint near the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa.
86 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7, according to documentation collected by DCIP, when the Israeli military began a full-scale military offensive on the Gaza Strip dubbed Operation Iron Swords.
In 2023, Israeli forces and settlers killed at least 121 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Israeli forces and settlers shot and killed 102 Palestinian children with live ammunition, 14 Palestinian children were killed in drone strikes, four Palestinian children were killed by missiles fired from a U.S.-sourced Apache attack helicopter, and one child was killed in an Israeli warplane airstrike.
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 forces have withheld the bodies of at least 26 Palestinian children since June 2016, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Three of the children’s bodies have since been released to their families, while 23 Palestinian children’s bodies remain withheld by Israeli authorities.
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.
In September 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court approved the practice of confiscating human remains after several legal challenges to the policy. On November 27, 2019, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered all bodies of Palestinians alleged to have attacked Israeli citizens or soldiers to be withheld and not returned to their families. Israel is the only country in the world with such a policy of confiscating human remains, according to Adalah.