Clashes erupt in West Bank after Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces

Published March 24th, 2017 - 01:00 GMT
An Israeli soldier fires tear gas towards Palestinian protesters during clashes in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 22, 2017. (AFP)
An Israeli soldier fires tear gas towards Palestinian protesters during clashes in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 22, 2017. (AFP)

Clashes erupted late Thursday night between locals of al-Jalazun refugee camp and Israeli forces who were deployed at the entrance of the illegal Israeli Beit El settlement in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, shortly after Israeli forces shot and killed one Palestinian teenager, and critically injured three others in the same area.

Israeli forces fired live-fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas at protesters, while Palestinian youth threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at soldiers.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports. 
Meanwhile, protesters marched from from the Ramallah Government Hospital, where the four teens were taken after they were shot, through main streets in Ramallah city, demanding all stores and shops close in mourning for the slain teen, 17-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Hattab. 
Protesters called for uniting Palestinian factions “to respond to Israeli crimes against Palestinians.”
Al-Hattab, who was shot in the chest and shoulder, succumbed to his wounds at the hospital, while 18-year-old Jassem Muhammed Nakhla, who was shot in the head and foot, 18-year-old Muhammad Hattab, who was shot in the abdomen, and 18-year-old Muhammed Musa Nakhla, who was shot in the foot and shoulder, remained in critical condition. 
Sources told Ma’an that two of the three surviving teens were “brain dead,” though it remained unclear which two. 
Local sources told Ma'an at the time of the event that Israeli soldiers fired heavily at the teens’ vehicle while they were inside, from a military tower near the entrance of the camp, which is located adjacent to Beit El. 
An Israeli army spokesperson, however, claimed that the boys were throwing Molotov cocktails at the settlement, and that they were outside of their car when they were shot. 
“Three suspects exited a vehicle adjacent to the community of Beit El, where the suspects threw firebombs at the community. In response to the threat Israeli forces in the area fired towards the suspects, and several hits were confirmed. The suspects then fled the scene,” the spokesperson said. 
The spokesperson would not comment on the reports that the teenagers were fired at while still inside the vehicle, or on reports that Israeli forces fired at the teens from a military watchtower.
When questioned about how the teens could have re-entered their car and driven away from the scene after being injured with multiple rounds of live fire to the head and chest, the Israeli army spokesperson said she could not comment.
In dozens of cases, Israel’s version of events has been disputed by witnesses, activists, and rights groups who have denounced what they have termed a "shoot-to-kill" policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner -- amid a backdrop of impunity for Israelis who committed the killings.
Al-Hattab's death marked the third time this year that Israeli forces fatally shot a Palestinian minor. 
Last week, Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Murad Yousif Abu Ghazi in al-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank, with the Israeli army at the time saying that "firebombs were hurled at passing vehicles on a road near the village of al-Arrub. In response to the immediate threat, forces fired toward suspects."
The Israeli army also claimed that 17-year-old Qusay Hassan al-Umour was throwing Molotov cocktails -- a claim that was widely contradicted by video evidence and investigations undertaken by rights groups-- in January when Israeli forces shot al-Umour in the chest with live fire at least three times, in what was branded by rights groups as an unlawful and unjustified killing.
Though the Israeli army and military police opened an official investigation into al-Umour’s death, the precedent set by cases such as that of 15-year-old Khalid Bahr, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in October for allegedly throwing rocks at soldiers during a raid in a Hebron-area village, casts doubts on the likelihood of real accountability.
According to rights group Yesh Din, of 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians opened by the Israeli army in 2015, just four resulted in indictments.

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