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From the field

Israeli military kills two Palestinian youths in Jenin Refugee Camp

On 12 July 2017, at around 2:00 A.M., several dozen Israeli soldiers and at least five military vehicles entered Jenin Refugee Camp to arrest a resident. Youths from the camp fired live bullets at the soldiers and threw stones and IEDs at them. The soldiers fired live bullets at the youths. The confrontations took place along the camp’s two main streets, al-Madares and a-Sikah. One youth sustained an injury to the thigh from a live bullet.

Sa’ed Salah, 21, fatally shot by soldiers in Jenin R.C. Photo courtesy of the family.At approximately 4:00 A.M., when the clashes were centered in al-Madares Street and the adjoining alleys, at least three groups of 3-5 soldiers each lay in wait in the alleyways of the next street along, a-Sikah, which is some 100 meters away, and on the roof of a nearby house. Two military jeeps drove west along the street, from the square known as “the camp yard”. Sa’ed Salah, a 21-year-old resident of Jenin R.C., followed them at a short distance on his motorcycle, and behind him ran some 40 to 50 youths who sporadically threw stones at the jeeps. Among them was Aws Salameh, a 16-year-old resident of Jenin R.C..

The two jeeps braked suddenly. Salah, who was several meters behind them, stopped too. In a testimony given by S.W., a 19-year-old resident of Jenin R.C., to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 15 July 2017, he related:

The site of the shooting in Jenin R.C. Photo by ‘Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 12 July 2017
The site of the shooting in Jenin R.C. Photo by ‘Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 12 July 2017

I didn’t know there were soldiers in that area. I thought they were on their way out of the camp. I saw Sa’ed chasing the jeeps on his motorbike. He was a few meters away from them. Aws Salameh was one of the guys chasing the jeeps, about 20 to 25 meters away from them. I was surprised when the jeeps stopped suddenly next to a house. I think the sudden braking caught Sa’ed by surprise, too, and he tried to stop. At that moment, I saw one of the soldiers shoot him. Sa’ed’s right hand moved back and he lost control of the motorbike. It slid to the right and Sa’ed fell onto the road. Then the soldiers fired in the direction of Aws Salameh, who was up front among the guys chasing the jeeps. I saw him fall over. A few seconds later he got up and went into the UNRWA yard. A few soldiers came from the west to the spot where Sa’ed was hit. I ran away with the other guys through the back alleys.

A.’A., 25, from Jenin R.C., was standing with other youths in an alley close to a-Sikah Street. In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 12 July 2017, he described the incident from his viewpoint:

At around 4:00 A.M., I was surprised to see several jeeps coming from the direction of the “camp yard”. They were speeding west, with dozens of youths and young men chasing them. I saw Aws Salameh fall to the ground after he got hit. A few moments later, he began crawling east. When he reached the UNRWA offices, I lost sight of him.

Meanwhile, Sa’ed Salah was shot on his motorbike. The soldiers gathered around him. I hid behind a water tank at the entrance to a house for fear of being hit by a stray bullet.

J.M., 16, from the camp, was standing on the rooftop of his four-story house near a-Sikah Street at the time, watching the confrontations. In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 15 July 2017, he related:

At around 4:00 A.M., when the muezzin was reading out verses from the Quran, military jeeps came speeding from the direction of the “camp yard” and headed west. I was surprised when they suddenly stopped outside our house. A few meters to the west, guys were chasing the jeeps and I saw one on a motorbike. He was closer to the jeeps. I guess he was taken by surprise when they braked. I didn’t know that the guy on the motorbike was one of my dearest and closest friends.

When the jeeps suddenly braked, he tried to stop and turn around to escape. I saw the soldiers on the next rooftop, the house belongs to our relatives, open fire at him and at the other guys. One of the guys they fired at fell down. A few moments later he got up, started running, fell down again, and then crawled east until he almost made it to the UNRWA offices, where some guys picked him up and carried him towards the “camp yard”.

I went down to the fourth floor to warn the guys on Facebook not to come to our area because soldiers were lying in wait in the alleys and on a rooftop. When I heard guys on the street calling out that someone had been killed I dared to venture outside, because they wouldn’t have gathered outside unless the soldiers had already left the camp. When I came out, I saw them lifting up the injured guy, who wasn’t moving, and then I found out that it was Sa’ed Salah.

After Salah and Salameh were shot, some of the youths kept on throwing stones at the soldiers, who fired live bullets at them. After Salah was shot, soldiers stood around him for at least ten minutes without giving him medical aid. Salah was driven in a private car to the government hospital in Jenin. He was dead on arrival, with two bullet wounds, one of them in the back of the head. Salameh was taken to the same hospital in a Red Crescent ambulance. He had sustained a bullet wound to the abdomen and died in hospital.

Aws Salameh, 16, fatally shot by soldiers in Jenin R.C. Photo courtesy of the family.B’Tselem’s investigation of the incident found that soldiers who laid the ambush shot and killed two residents of Jenin RC – Sa’ed Salah, 21, and Aws Salameh, 16 – although the two did not pose a threat to the soldiers’ lives. This is not the first time the military has ambushed stone-throwers, as though this were a legal way of dealing with the disturbance. In this case, once again, the use of lethal fire cannot be justified under the circumstances. The fact that no one was held accountable in previous instances, including the commanders who ordered the ambush, is what allows the implementation of this unlawful policy to continue.

For decades, B’Tselem referred such incidents to the military law enforcement system in order to promote real accountability for the killing of Palestinians – to no avail. In many cases, no investigation was opened; yet even when investigations were carried out, they invariably ended in some form of cover up. Consequently, B’Tselem decided to stop applying to the MAG Corps to demand that incidents in which Palestinians were harmed by soldiers be investigated. Nevertheless, B’Tselem continues to promote accountability in other ways, which is why we investigate incidents independently and publish our findings. That said, the responsibility for investigating and holding the persons responsible for these incidents accountable still lies with the military. Still, as long as the MAG Corps persists in its systematic whitewash policy, there is nothing to deter Israeli security forces from using lethal firepower against Palestinians who are not endangering them.