Senior Israeli military officer kills Palestinian teen near Qalandia

Jul 08, 2015

Israeli forces killed Mohammad Sami Ali Kasba, 17, near Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem on July 3.

Ramallah, July 8, 2015—A Palestinian teenager died of multiple gunshot wounds he sustained during a confrontation between stone-throwing youth and Israeli soldiers on Friday morning in the occupied West Bank town of Al-Ram.

Around 6:30 a.m., a group of Palestinians hurled stones at five Israeli soldiers in a military vehicle heading toward Qalandia checkpoint, the main entryway between Ramallah and Jerusalem. The soldiers stopped the jeep when a stone struck their windshield. Among them was Israeli brigade commander, Col. Yisrael Shomer, who shot dead Mohammad Sami Ali Kasba, 17, from a distance of about 15 meters (49 feet), according to witnesses. Two soldiers nudged Abu Kasba’s body with their feet while he lay on the ground.

At least three bullets struck Mohammad in the back, face, and upper side of his torso as he attempted to flee from soldiers, witnesses told Defense for Children International - Palestine. A Palestinian ambulance transferred Mohammad to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah. Doctors at the hospital extracted several bullet fragments from his body. They said a shot to the jaw left his teeth shattered.

“The multiple gunshots that struck the teen in the face and upper part of his body at close distance suggest the military commander had fired to kill rather than subdue him,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “Such unnecessary excessive force, including the use of live ammunition, in response to stone-throwing youth shows a complete disregard for human life.”

According to an Israeli army spokesperson, who spoke with Agence France-Presse (AFP), "the forces called the suspect to halt and shot warning shots in the air. Once he continued hurling rocks at close range and in response to the imminent danger the forces fired towards the suspect.”

A friend of Mohammad told DCIP that the teenager had attempted to cross the Qalandia checkpoint to attend prayer at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, but Israeli soldiers turned him away. Palestinian Muslims have flooded Qalandia during the holy month of Ramadan in hopes of praying at Islam’s third holiest site. Those barred from entering have resorted to climbing over Israel’s controversial separation barrier that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem.

The shooting took place shortly after Mohammad had joined a group of six friends near Qalandia to direct traffic on a heavily congested road used to enter and exit Ramallah from Jerusalem.

Mohammad’s death was not the first for the Abu Kasba family. On December 12, 2001, Israeli forces shot Mohammad’s brother, Yasser, then 11, in head during clashes near Qalandia refugee camp. The following month, another brother, Samer, then 16, also sustained a gunshot wound to the head during an Israeli army incursion into Ramallah. He died one week later.

“Mohammad’s death was a shock for my wife and me,” Sami, Mohammad’s father, told DCIP. “My wife is still in denial and I am trying my best to support her, but I feel helpless.”

The incident took place against a backdrop of violence across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Prior to Mohammad’s death, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had this week documented the killing of a Palestinian man and the injuring of several children at the hands of Israeli soldiers. 

Violence often occurs at the heavily militarized Israeli checkpoints dotted throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where the presence of soldiers creates tension and leads to clashes between civilians and the military. In April, Israeli forces killed Ali Abu Ghannam, 17, at the East Jerusalem Zayyem checkpoint following an altercation with soldiers.

DCIP and other human rights groups have consistently denounced the use of excessive force, particularly the use of live ammunition, employed by Israeli forces to disperse civilian crowds. In 2014, Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinian children with live ammunition in the occupied West Bank.

Since 2000, Israeli security forces have killed over 8,896 Palestinians. At least 1,900 of those have been children, according to DCIP documentation.

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