Teenagers smeared as terrorists

Human rights groups accuse Israel of a shoot-to-kill policy.

Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images

The reporting on a February incident in the occupied West Bank in which soldiers opened fire on a Palestinian car was pretty typical.

The soldiers fired on the vehicle after its driver accelerated “in a possible attempt to ram them with it,” The Times of Israel reported.

“The man [driving the vehicle] was reportedly injured in the incident at a checkpoint in the village of Beitin, near Ramallah. His condition was not immediately clear.”

The Israeli soldiers were unharmed. Few additional details were published.

And so the incident would go unexamined but for an investigation by a human rights group.

The Israeli group B’Tselem found that there was no attempted attack before Israeli soldiers opened fire the evening of 20 February.

And the car was not being driven by a man, but by a 15-year-old who was riding along with three friends the same age.

The boys told B’Tselem that they were riding in the car when they saw an Israeli military jeep approaching, “driving against the traffic in the same lane as them.”

The boy driving the car tried to turn around to avoid hitting the jeep but crashed into a row of boulders lining the road.

“At that moment, soldiers got out of the jeep and opened fire, first in the air and then at the car,” according to B’Tselem.

A boy sitting in the back seat was hit in the thigh and back and critically injured. Another teen was wounded, apparently by shrapnel.

The soldiers then pulled the teens out of the car and beat two of them. The boy who was shot was evacuated in a military vehicle. The three others were detained by soldiers on the side of the road for two hours.

False claim

“The false claim of fearing a car-ramming attack, which allegedly justified the shooting, is baseless and contradicts the evidence,” B’Tselem stated.

“It demonstrates, yet again, how easy it is for soldiers to shoot Palestinians (in this case, 15-year-olds), and then justify their action with false claims.”

It casts doubt all the incidents in which Palestinians were killed with no witnesses to contradict Israeli claims of terrorist attacks, B’Tselem said.

Human rights groups like B’Tselem have long contended that Israel has a shoot-to-kill policy when it comes to Palestinians, including children. Investigations by those groups frequently reveal Israel’s claims to be flat-out lies.

Of the 135 Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces last year, 112 of them “sustained wounds in the upper part of the body or sustained multiple injuries, including in the upper part of the body,” according to the rights group Al-Haq.

Two young Palestinian men were killed in an incident last year similar to the February shooting of the group of 15-year-olds.

Amir Mahmoud Darraj, 22, and Yousif Raed Anqawi, 20, were driving on a dark road in a West Bank village in March 2019 when their car collided with an Israeli military vehicle that was stalled on the road.

Video recorded on Facebook Live shows that a single shot was fired after the collision.

After nearly five minutes, six more shots were fired. Twenty seconds later, another two shots. And then another shot less than half a minute later.

The Israeli military claimed that soldiers opened fire after “terrorists” tried to run them over with a car. But eyewitnesses told B’Tselem that the young men likely didn’t see the military vehicle on the dark road.

A third passenger survived and was detained.

No accountability

No soldier has been put on trial for what may have amounted to the extrajudicial execution of Darraj and Anqawi.

Just like there has been no accountability over the killing of 49 children during Gaza’s Great March of Return protests beginning in March 2018.

“During the same period, Israeli forces killed an additional 32 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip,” according to Defense for Children International Palestine.

“In the overwhelming majority of these 81 cases, the children did not pose a direct, mortal threat at the time of their death.”

The failure of the world’s most powerful governments and international bodies to challenge Israel’s impunity “has provided Israeli forces with tacit approval to increasingly target Palestinian children with impunity over the past several years,” according to Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a program director with the rights group.

And so it’s just a matter of time before another group of innocent Palestinian teens comes under Israeli fire, only to be smeared as terrorists by the military which denies their freedom, right to self-determination and their right to life.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.