Rights and Accountability 3 August 2021
The boy was in the car with his father Muayyad Abu Sara, who was driving, and two younger siblings. They had been out shopping and were returning to their home in the occupied West Bank town of Beit Ummar near Hebron.
An eyewitness told the Hebrew-language Israeli publication Local Call the day after the shooting that Abu Sara had been driving home from the town center.
As his car approached the small road leading to his house, there was a group of soldiers in the street.
According to the eyewitness, the car stopped and began to reverse. The soldiers began chasing the car and firing at it for no reason.
When the shooting was over, Abu Sara told media, he found Muhammad slumped unconscious on the lap of his younger sister.
Muhammad’s father drove to the Red Crescent in Beit Ummar. The child was then taken to a hospital in Hebron with a gunshot wound to the chest. Doctors operated, but the boy died in the intensive care unit a few hours later, according to Defense for Children International Palestine.
The video clips, released by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, corroborate eyewitness accounts. You can watch them at the top of this article.
One shows a white vehicle approaching the beginning of the narrow street. The car stops well short of a line of half a dozen soldiers standing in the street, and begins to reverse.
The car appears to be dozens of meters away from the soldiers, posing no conceivable threat to them or anyone else.
As it reverses, the soldiers run up the street after the vehicle. The second clip filmed from a different angle does not show the scene clearly as the view is obscured by trees, but it captures the sounds.
There is an initial burst of gunfire, followed by a pause of a few seconds, and then a second volley. The Electronic Intifada counted at least a dozen shots. Local Call put the number at 14.
“Mind boggling” excuse
Immediately after the shooting, the Israeli army concocted a story about how the soldiers had earlier seen Palestinians engaged in suspicious activity in the town’s nearby graveyard, and believed the Abu Sara family car was carrying the people they had seen in the graveyard.
In fact, the people in the graveyard had been burying an infant, Leen, in the cemetery’s children’s section. According to Beit Ummar’s mayor and the father of the infant, Ali Anwar Zaaqiq, occupation soldiers had opened the grave, taken the body of his daughter out of her shroud and cast her on the ground.
They had been doing absolutely nothing to warrant the suspicions and horrific violence of invading occupation soldiers, and neither had the Abu Sara family.Commenting on the videos it released, B’Tselem affirmed that there was “no justification” for the shooting.
“The explanation offered by the military that the soldiers fired at the car after suspecting the passengers had buried a dead baby is mind boggling,” B’Tselem added. “Suspected of what exactly, Palestinians are not supposed to bury their dead?”
Impunity and complicity
Muhammad Abu Sara was the 11th child to be killed by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank this year, according to Defense for Children International Palestine.
”Israeli forces routinely unlawfully kill Palestinian children with impunity, resorting to intentional lethal force in situations where children pose no threat,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the group’s accountability program director, said.
“Systemic impunity enables Israeli forces to continue killing Palestinian children with no limits.”A glaring example of this impunity came from the European Union’s office in Ramallah, which noted in a 29 July tweet that Muhammad Abu Sara was “killed by ISF gunfire.”
The term “ISF” – which stands for “Israeli security forces” – is a total misnomer and euphemism for occupation forces who provide anything but “security.”
Their job, rather, is to terrorize and repress Palestinians while Israel’s systematic settler-colonization of the West Bank proceeds uninterrupted by occasional bleats of “concern” from UN or EU officials.
“We recall that children enjoy special protection under [International Humanitarian Law] and deeply regret what appears to be excessive use of lethal force,” the EU stated.
It added that there was “Need for swift, transparent and thorough investigations on the circumstances” of Muhammad Abu Sara’s killing, as well as the wanton slaying by Israeli forces last week of Shadi Omar Lutfi Salim, the water engineer in the village of Beita, near Nablus.The European Union knows very well that Israel’s self-investigations are a whitewash and Palestinians have no recourse to seek justice.
It is because of unconditional military, trade and political support from the EU and its member states that Israel knows it can kill Palestinian children without ever having to worry about paying a price.
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