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From the field

Israeli police shoot and kill 16-year-old girl who brandished a knife at them, but did not pose a real danger to them

Fatimah Hjeiji, 16On the evening of 7 May 2017, 16-year-old Fatimah Hjeiji, a resident of the Palestinian village of Qarawat Bani Zeid, approached a metal police barrier near the stairs leading to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. Hjeiji stopped, stood, and then brandished a knife at five Israel Police and Border Police officers who were standing on the other side of the barrier. The officers then fatally shot her.

B’Tselem’s inquiries indicate that Hjeiji, who stopped several meters away from the officers, did not pose a danger to them. The research also indicates that the officers fired at least ten bullets at her, some of which hit a nearby taxi. The police - who were standing behind a metal barrier, were armed and wearing protective gear - could have subdued Hjeiji and taken her into custody without resorting to gunfire, certainly not lethal gunfire. Instead, they shot and killed a 16-year-old girl who, as stated, posed no danger to them.

Nevertheless, Jerusalem District Police Commander Major General Yoram Halevy found the shooting to have been lawful and appropriate. Halevy said: “Police and Border Police forces are deployed in all the hotspots in the city. We will continue to protect the residents. Anyone attempting to harm civilians and police officers will meet an immediate, determined, response”. The District Commander’s statement completely ignores the facts of the case: Hjeiji’s youth, the fact that she stood motionless, the short distance between her and the officers, the metal barrier separating her from the officers, and the obvious conclusion - that the officers shot and killed her when she posed no threat to them. This statement, like similar sentiments expressed by other senior ranking officials and a mood of general hostility ever since October 2015, encourages security personnel to shoot to kill even in cases such as this, where lethal measures are unwarranted.

This is no isolated incident. About a week ago, on 2 May 2017, an Israeli - who was about 19 years old, and whose name has not been released - was killed at the Hizma Checkpoint. The police said he had run at security personnel “holding something in his hand”. The object was later found to be a knife. The young man was shot by a security guard stationed at the checkpoint. About a month ago, almost at the very spot where Fatimah Hjeiji was killed, and under similar circumstances, Border Police shot and killed Siham Nimer, 49, who had brandished a pair of scissors at them from the other side of the police barricade. These cases are but two of dozens that have occurred since October 2015.

The continued policy of fatally shooting Palestinians who do not pose a mortal danger illustrates the manifest discrepancy between the recognized and accepted principle that prohibits such use of gunfire, and a reality in which shoot-to-kill incidents are a frequent occurrence and are encouraged by senior officials and wide public support.