Ramallah, September 6, 2023—Israeli forces shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy yesterday in the Jordan valley after he allegedly carried out a shooting attack.
Mohammad Yousef Ismail Zbeidat, 16, was shot and killed during a shootout with Israeli forces around 4:30 p.m. on September 5 near the village of Zbeidat, north of Jericho in the southern Jordan valley in the occupied West Bank, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. Mohammad allegedly fired shots at a restaurant in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Argaman before fleeing to the Palestinian village of Zbeidat to hide in a palm grove. Mohammad allegedly fired a weapon at nearby Israeli forces, lightly wounding one soldier. Israeli forces demanded via a megaphone that Mohammad surrender, followed by about ten minutes of intense close-range shooting. Mohammad laid on the ground for about four hours, bleeding out, without receiving medical attention. Israeli authorities confiscated Mohammad’s body.
“Israeli forces routinely carry out extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, including children,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces systematically disregard obligations and international norms concerning the right to life because they enjoy near complete impunity for war crimes.”
After Israeli forces shot and killed Mohammad, they searched his family’s home and detained his father and older brother overnight.
Mohammad sustained at least one gunshot wound to his head, according to his father, who was briefly permitted to see his face. Since Israeli authorities confiscated Mohammad’s body, DCIP was unable to verify other gunshot wounds.
Israeli forces have withheld the bodies of at least 19 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 16 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.
44 Palestinian children have been killed in 2023, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Israeli forces and settlers have shot and killed at least 36 Palestinian children and killed one Palestinian child with a targeted drone strike in the occupied West Bank. Six Palestinian children in Gaza were killed in the May 2023 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, and a 10-year-old Palestinian child in Gaza succumbed to head wounds he sustained during the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip in August 2022.
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.
53 Palestinian children were killed in 2022, according to documentation collected by DCIP, including 36 Palestinian children shot and killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the occupied West Bank. DCIP documented the killing of 17 Palestinian children between August 5–7 after Israeli forces launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip.