Ramallah, January 8, 2018—Israeli forces killed a 16-year-old Palestinian and critically injured another teen in two apparent instances of excessive use of force against Palestinian children.
An Israeli soldier shot Musab Tamimi in the neck with live ammunition from a distance of approximately 70 meters (76 yards) during clashes on January 3 in the Ramallah-area town of Deir Nitham in the central West Bank, according to testimonies collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. He was pronounced dead shortly after. The following morning Hassan Mezher, 17, was critically injured when soldiers shot him in the back while he was walking to school from Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.
“Longstanding impunity for Israeli forces in the context of the Occupied Palestinian Territory has created a consequence-free engagement environment," said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, DCIP’s Accountability Program director. "Soldiers operate with the knowledge that potentially unnecessary lethal force will go unchecked, whatever the result to Palestinian children.”
Three eyewitnesses in sworn testimonies to DCIP said Israeli forces repeatedly fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, and tear gas at around 30 Palestinians throwing stones during intense clashes in Deir Nitham on the day Musab was killed.
Musab had been participating clashes, briefly sitting down on a rock around 2:30 p.m., according to an eyewitness.
“When he [Musab] got up and walked around one meter, I saw a soldier take a sniper position on one knee,” the witness, who wished to remain anonymous, told DCIP. “At that moment I heard the sound of live fire and I saw Musab fall to the ground.”
The 16-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital bleeding excessively from the left side of his neck, according to witnesses. He was pronounced dead around 90 minutes later.
An Israeli military spokesman initially said forces opened fire on a “rioter who was apparently armed,” adding that the incident was under investigation. The spokesman reported around one hour later that the military had fired on an “armed rioter” without sharing evidence of a weapon.
Eyewitnesses did not report a firearm in Musab’s possession and relatives told news outlets that no weapons were found on or near his body.
International law permits the use of lethal force only when an imminent mortal threat or threat of serious injury exists. DCIP has repeatedly documented the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces on Palestinian children, often in circumstances where the use of such force was unwarranted.
Only one incident where a child was fatally shot by Israel forces since 2014, the fatal shooting of Nadeem Nawara, 17, by an Israeli border police officer, has resulted in both an investigation and indictment.
The day after Musab was killed, eyewitnesses told DCIP that Hassan was shot around 7:30 a.m. while en route to school. Israeli forces fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, and tear gas canisters in the area, according to initial reports. A bullet hit his spine and he underwent surgery.
December saw a spike in violations against Palestinians during a period of high unrest in which Israeli authorities applied widespread force to quash protests sparked by the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Eight child injuries were reported to DCIP between December 6 and 20, six of whom suffered head injuries, all except one with potentially irreversible damage.
Israeli forces misused crowd control weapons and live ammunition against children in the context of confrontations with Palestinian protesters.
DCIP has since documented six additional moderate to serious injuries in the second half of December 2017. Israeli forces on December 22 opened fire with live ammunition on Hamzeh Obeid, 16, after he climbed a fence east of Shuja’iyya, near Gaza’s border, and damaged a surveillance camera. His right lung was injured by shrapnel. In separate incidents in the Gaza Strip between December 15 and 26, Israeli forces shot three minors’ legs with live ammunition, one of whom required a foot amputation. Two other children were shot in the feet in the West Bank’s Arroub refugee camp.
Members of Musab’s extended Tamimi family were among children to face rights violations amid last month’s escalations. Israeli forces shot and critically injured 15-year-old Mohammad Tamimi in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet shortly after clashes had ended in Nabi Saleh on December 15. The child’s 16-year-old relative, Ahed Tamimi, was detained days later in a night raid on the town and has since been charged with assaulting a soldier and throwing stones, according to local media.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 235 Palestinian children were injured by Israeli forces in the last two weeks of December. Injuries were sustained by tear gas canisters, excessive tear gas inhalation, rubber-coated metal bullets, and live ammunition. The vast majority of the injuries took place in the context of clashes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.