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January 2018: Israeli soldiers kill 5 Palestinians, 4 of them teenagers, without justification

Update: On 5 March 2018, the MPIU’s National Unit for Operational Investigations informed B’Tselem by email that an MPIU investigation had been launched into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of ‘Ali Qinu and Ahmad Salim.

In five separate incidents in January 2018, Israeli soldiers killed five Palestinians – four of them teenagers –in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip:.

  • On 3 January 2018, soldiers shot Mus’ab a-Sufi (16) in the neck, and killed him in the village of Deir Nidham, Ramallah District. (The next day, 4 January, during a-Sufi’s funeral, soldiers shot Muhammad ‘Awad (19) from the village of ‘Abud in the head, wounding him severely.)
  • On 11 January, soldiers shot ‘Ali Qinu (17) in the head and killed him near the village of ‘Iraq Burin, south of Nablus.
  • On 11 January, soldiers shot Amir Abu Masa’ed (15) in the armpit and killed him, at a demonstration near the perimeter fence in the area of Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.
  • On 15 January, soldiers shot Ahmad Salim (28) in the head and killed him near the village of Jayus, east of Qalqiliyah.
  • On 30 January, soldiers shot Layth Abu Na’im (16) in the head and killed him in the village of al-Mughayir, northeast of Ramallah.

The five Palestinians were shot although they were not endangering the lives of the soldiers or of anyone else. According to the military’s open-fire regulations, shooting to kill is permitted only when the lives of security forces or other persons are in danger. Even then, it is allowed only when there are no other means of averting the danger. The killings in January 2018 – like the cases of the six Palestinians who were killed in incidents involving stone-throwing in the West Bank and the eleven Palestinians killed during protests near the Gaza perimeter fence in 2017, three of them teenagers – were a far cry from meeting these criteria.

Israel’s defense establishment, including the military law enforcement system, does not seem to be troubled by such incidents and chooses, as a rule, to ignore them. In some cases, an MPIU investigation is opened, but they almost always result in a cover-up and in any case, center on the responsibility of the soldier who fired the shot and not of his commanders or of the senior military echelons, who determine and oversee the implementation of the open-fire policy.

This conduct renders the open-fire regulations, which are supposed to limit the use of lethal firepower, void of meaning and conveys Israel’s deep disregard for the lives of Palestinians. Israel’s defense system, including the military law enforcement system, chooses as a rule to back up the shooters or cover up the incident in such cases. The fact that the enforcement agencies effectively allow soldiers to blatantly disregard the open-fire regulations with no accountability allowed the continued use of lethal force – a crucial element in Israel’s ability to maintain violent control over millions of Palestinians.

3 Jan. 2018: The killing of Mus’ab a-Sufi, 16, resident of Deir Nidham

Mus’ab a-Sufi. Photo courtesy of the family
Mus’ab a-Sufi

After US President Trump issued his “Jerusalem statement” on 6 December 2017, the village of Deir Nidham, northwest of Ramallah, was the scene of nearly daily clashes between village youths and Israeli security forces. The youths threw stones at Road 465, which runs north of the village, and members of the security forces fired tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at them. In some cases, they chased stone throwers into the village. Over the rest of the month, security forces raided the village eight times, arrested one person and wounded another with a rubber-coated bullet. Several other residents suffered from gas inhalation. 

On 1 January 2018, at around 7:30 in the morning, about thirty military, Border Police and Civil Administration jeeps drove into the village. The troops posted bills throughout the village threatening that military action would be taken against the residents to prevent “the terrorist activity and the public disturbances”.

Two days later, on 3 January, at around 10:00 in the morning, some children threw stones at Road 465. Soldiers who arrived at the scene fired tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at them. The children fled to some groves located south of the road. Clashes between several dozen children and youths and about 10 soldiers and Border Police officers continued until about 1:00 in the afternoon. The security forces chased the children into the grove area and fired live rounds, “rubber” bullets, tear-gas canisters and stun grenades. At around 12:30 P.M., a small group of soldiers and Border Police officers entered the eastern part of the village and arrested an 18-year-old youth with a psychosocial disability who was passing by. In the clashes that took place after his arrest, a 15-year-old was wounded by shrapnel. 
At around 1:00 P.M., four soldiers positioned themselves near a fig tree located near one of the village homes, about 250 meters away from Road 465 and some 60 meters away from a group of ten to twenty children and teenagers. The children and teenagers, who were standing on the road and inside a nearby olive grove, threw stones at the soldiers, and the latter fired live rounds at them. A military drone was flying overhead.
In a testimony he gave on 4 January 2018 to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, N.S., 17, described what happened:

View from where the soldiers fired at the road and olive groves where the teens were. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 4 Jan. 2018
View from where the soldiers fired at the road and olive groves where the teens were. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 4 Jan. 2018

In a testimony he gave on 4 January 2018 to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, N.S., 17, described what happened:

Four soldiers positioned themselves near the fig tree, about ten meters southeast of Yunes’ house. Mus’ab and I were on the path leading up to the center of the village, about fifty to seventy meters away from the soldiers. Mus’ab’s brother, A., 15, and a few other kids were hiding behind the olive trees in the grove. The soldiers fired four shots in our direction without hitting anyone, just the rocks and tree trunks. Every time they fired, the kids shouted out a warning.

At around 1:00 P.M., I heard cries of warning from Umm Khaldun’s balcony: “Watch out, the soldier is aiming at you”. Every time I saw a soldier aiming his weapon at us, we hid behind a wall or tree or rock. At that point, Mus’ab was sitting by the side of the road, to my right. He said to me: “I want to move forward, cover me”. I don’t know if he meant to throw a stone or just hide somewhere else. He got up and moved forward a few meters. He wasn’t holding anything at the time, not even stones. One of the soldiers, I can’t remember which one, pointed his weapon at Mus’ab. Both I and his brother warned him: “Hide, hide, he’s aiming at you”, but he didn’t listen.

Mus’ab kept going forward, and then one of the soldiers fired a live round at him that hit his neck. Mus’ab immediately fell to the ground and started groaning. I went up to him and saw he was bleeding heavily from the left side of his neck. I was scared. My legs started shaking. I was so scared I didn’t dare stay with him, so I took off and started calling out to the village residents: “Someone’s been hit. Someone’s been hit”. A few children went up to him and his father, who heard he’d been hit, came and took him in a car to the hospital in Ramallah.

Mus’ab’s father, Firas a-Sufi  (43, a married father of four), was standing next to his car about fifty meters away from where the clashes were taking place. He recounted what happened in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad on 7 January 2018:

Firas a-Sufi. Photo by Alex Levac
Firas a-Sufi. Photo by Alex Levac

I was following the incidents from a spot about fifty meters away. After a few minutes, I heard live fire. At that moment, the protesters started shouting “Someone’s been hurt. Someone’s been hurt in the head”. I drove my car to where the shouts were coming from. I didn’t know the person who got hit was actually my son, but somehow, I had a feeling it was him.

When I got there, I saw a group of people gathered near the injured person. I got out of the car and started asking: “Who is it? Who is it”? They said: “Mus’ab”. I was beside myself and ran over to him. He was lying on the ground, bleeding from the neck. His face was covered in blood. There were women and children around him, including my son, A., 15, who was confused. He was shouting and crying. A few people helped me lift Mus’ab and get him into the backseat of the car. When we lifted him up he spewed blood, and then his whole body went limp. Two young men from the village got in the car with me and we drove fast toward the hospitals in Ramallah. As soon as we were out of the village, one of the guys called an ambulance.

On the way, the guys held Mus’ab, and one of them put pressure on his wound to stop the bleeding. Every once in a while I reached my hand out and felt his face to make sure he was still alive. The whole way I kept asking the guys: “Is he still alive? Is he still alive”? They said he still had a pulse. I felt from the very first moment that he was going to die, but I still hoped he’d live. After about a ten-minute drive, the ambulance met us near the ‘Atarah bridge, and we transferred Mus’ab into it. They took him to al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah.
 

A-Sufi reached the hospital at 1:30 P.M., without a pulse. After an hour of attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead.

The clashes in Deir Nidham continued after Mus’ab a-Sufi was evacuated until late that afternoon.

The next day, on 4 January 2018, clashes erupted again near Road 465, at around 1:00 P.M., during Mus’ab a-Sufi’s funeral. At around 1:30 P.M., soldiers shot Muhammad ‘Awad, a 19-year-old resident of Abud from a distance of about twenty meters. He was evacuated to al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah where he was diagnosed with a fracture cranium and metal shrapnel lodged in the head. He underwent head surgery and is still in hospital.

In his testimony, Firas a-Sufi described his son:

Mus’ab was in 11th grade and was very serious about school. When we lived in Jordan, he was the lead in the choir and the head of the Jordanian public school council. When we returned to the village, he took on running the school radio station in the village. About a month ago, he was hit by a “rubber” bullet in the left leg during a protest in the village, but he recovered quickly. I had high hopes for him. He was active in a lot of things and had a lot of friends. He wanted to study business administration and get into business. The shots fired by the occupation soldiers cut short his hopes and dreams. He was snatched away from us suddenly, leaving me, his mother and his brothers totally shattered.

 

A-Sufi’s father displays a poster commemorating his son; it was defaced by soldiers who scribbled hate messages on it two days after he was killed.
A-Sufi’s father displays a poster commemorating his son; it was defaced by soldiers who scribbled hate messages on it two days after he was killed.

 

11 Jan. 2018: The killing of ‘Ali Qinu, 17, resident of ‘Iraq Burin

'Ali Qinu.  Photo courtesy of the family
'Ali Qinu

On the morning of 11 January 2018, soldiers set up a checkpoint on the road linking the village of ‘Iraq Burin to the city of Nablus and the village of Tell. The checkpoint was part of a series of travel restrictions imposed by the military while it was searching for the suspect in the killing of Israeli rabbi Raziel Shevach two days earlier. This resulted in clashes during which youths threw stones at soldiers and soldiers fired tear-gas canisters at them and threw stun grenades. The clashes continued until about 5:00 o’clock in the evening. 

At around 4:30 P.M., two military jeeps drove from the direction of Burin toward ‘Iraq Burin, and some youths from ‘Iraq Burin, who had climbed a nearby hill, threw stones at them from a distance of about thirty meters. The first jeep continued driving toward the village, while the second one stopped about thirty meters away from the youths. In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'I on 21 January 2-18, ‘A.Q., 20, recounted what happened next:

11 Jan. 2018: The killing of ‘Ali Qinu, 17, resident of ‘Iraq Burin

A soldier who was sitting in the jeep fired two or three shots in our direction. Then he fired more than twenty shots in a row. We all ran away from the fire, and then the jeep started driving toward the village again. 

After the jeeps got farther away, we checked to make sure everyone was okay. We didn’t see ‘Ali. We called out to him and looked for him. We went back to where we had been before, and found him lying face down. His head was split open and he was bleeding. I turned him over together with another guy. His face was pale and there was no sign of life. He wasn’t breathing. I put my hand on his neck and there was no pulse.

One of the young men went down to the road and stopped a car that was passing by. Several youths lifted the injured Qinu and got him into the car, which took him to a hospital in Nablus. The doctors pronounced him dead and found he had died from a bullet wound to the head.

His mother, Raedah Qino (45, a married mother of four) spoke about her son ‘Ali in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a- Deb'i on 25 January 2018:

When I saw Ali in the morgue fridge, I lost my mind. I couldn’t believe it was my youngest son ‘Ali, the youngest and most spoiled kid. I always thought he was the best looking of all my boys, and he had so much compassion for me and for his brother Wasim, who has cerebral palsy. He was always the first to help me take care of Wasim, and would sit with him so we could look after other things. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was like a gift from heaven.

Every day it feels like he’s been killed again, and I feel like I say goodbye to him again every minute. The parting is so hard, it’s unbearable. It hurt so much when his friends went back to school after the winter break. I cried so much. His classmates put a bouquet of flowers on his bench and wrote on the board: “Everyone is absent. Only ‘Ali is present” and left the room. At the end of the school day, his friends came over to my house and apologized for being unable to look me in the eye. Parting with ‘Ali is very hard for them, too.

The soldier who killed him killed me too, and everyone who loved him. He could have easily just hit his legs.

Palestinian flag placed at the spot on the hill that ‘Ali Qinu was killed. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 14 Jan. 2018
Palestinian flag placed at the spot on the hill that ‘Ali Qinu was killed. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 14 Jan. 2018

11 January: The killing of Amir Abu Masa’ed (15) from Deir al-Balah, Gaza:

Amir Abu Masa’ed. Photo courtesy of the family
Amir Abu Masa’ed

On 11 January, a demonstration was held near the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel, east of al-Bureij Refugee Camp. Palestinian youths threw stones at soldiers who were on the other side of the fence. Amir Abu Masa’ed was shot in the armpit and killed by soldiers when he was about 50 to 70 meters from the fence. 

In a testimony given to B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh on 15 January, A.N. (17), a resident of al-Bureij R.C., related:

At around 16:20 P.M., I went up with some other youths to the highest spot in the area, to see the soldiers. About five minutes later, most of the youths went back down because they were scared. I stayed up there with a guy I didn’t know. Suddenly, we were fired at. I was hit in the left thigh by a bullet. I felt my leg go weak and fell over. I saw blood coming out of the wound. I saw a few guys picking up the other guy, who was also wounded, about four meters away from me. Later I learned that his name was Amir Abu Masa’ed. 

Abu Masa’ed was taken, already lifeless, to hospital in Deir al-Balah.

15 January 2018: The killing of Ahmad Salim, 28, resident of Jayus

Ahmad Salim.  Photo courtesy of the family
Ahmad Salim

On 15 January 2018, at around 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, about ten youths from the village of Jayus, east of Qalqiliyah, spread out along the Separation Barrier and threw stones at two Israeli jeeps that were driving on the road adjacent to the barrier, near the village. Soldiers and Border Police officers fired tear gas and live fire at the youths from inside the jeeps. At around 4:00 P.M., one of the jeeps left the area and another arrived, and four masked soldiers got out. About half an hour later, Ahmad Salim advanced to the northern part of the hill he was standing on.

A.N., 20, who was standing on the hill with him, said in a testimony he gave on 22 January 2018 to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi:

We threw stones at the masked soldiers and they started advancing along the road. Ahmad approached them, on the hill, above the route of the barrier. I stayed where I was, about twenty to thirty meters away from him. I saw Ahmad bend down and pick up a small stone to throw at the soldiers, and then one of them aimed his gun at Ahmad. I saw the soldier open fire at him and heard three shots. One of them must have hit him. He fell to the ground, on his left side. I crawled over to him. He smiled at me and asked me to pick him up. I couldn’t do it, because the soldiers were still there and I was afraid they’d shoot me. I dragged about ten meters away, to get him out of the soldiers’ line of vision.

Two village residents who had heard the shots came running. One of them picked Salim up and took him to an ambulance that other residents had called, which was waiting about 400 meters away. Salim was taken to hospital in Qalqiliyah, where he was pronounced dead after attempted resuscitation. 

Road where the soldiers were standing, the Separation Barrier, and the hill beyond it where Ahmad Salim was killed. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 16 Jan. 2018
Road where the soldiers were standing, the Separation Barrier, and the hill beyond it where Ahmad Salim was killed. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 16 Jan. 2018

His sister, Rawan Salim (30, a married and mother of four), spoke about her brother in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 25 January 2018:

Ahmad and I were very close. When we were little, my mother called us “Tom and Jerry”. In 2016, Ahmad was released after three years in an Israeli prison. He enrolled at the al-Quds Open University for BA in education. About a year ago, he opened a restaurant on the ground floor of our house. He would always bring me and the children food after work. He wanted to get married, and I was helping him look for a bride. Ahmad had a big heart and a lot of patience. He took care of our younger siblings, and my little girls really loved him. When he was killed, everyone in the village came to his funeral.

30 Jan. 2018: The killing of Layth Abu Na’im, 16, resident of al-Mughayir

Layth Abu Na’im. Photo courtesy of the family
Layth Abu Na’im

The village of al-Mughayir is situated northeast of Ramallah. After US President Trump issued his “Jerusalem statement” on 6 December 2017, the village, was the scene of nearly daily clashes between village youths and Israeli security forces. Youths threw stones toward Route 458 (Allon Road), which runs east of the village, and the security forces responded by throwing stun grenades and firing tear-gas canisters, rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition at the youths. During the weeks following the declaration, military forces entered the village almost every day.
On 30 Jan. 2018, at about 3:00 P.M., a group of youths from the village set out to throw stones toward Allon Road. Military jeeps arrived on the scene, from within which soldiers threw stun grenades and firing tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets. At about 4:00 P.M., the youths fled back into the village and two military jeeps pursued them. All the youths dispersed in the village, except for Layth Abu Na’im, 16, who hid amid the cement posts surrounding a yard in the center of the village. The military jeeps stopped close by.

In a testimony he gave on 31 January 2018 to B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, ‘A.M. (69, a married father of six), who owns a nearby store, described what happened next:

The youth – I didn’t know his name – tried to hide or to throw a stone, but I didn’t see any stone thrown. A jeep had stopped about 20 meters away. I heard a shot and saw the youth fall to the ground and stop moving. A soldier immediately got out of the jeep, and then several other soldiers got out to check the area. They looked all around and at the roofs, with their guns ready. The soldier who got out first came over to me together with another soldier, pointed his weapon at me and ordered me to go inside the store. They went up to the youth who had been shot, looked at him close up and then left him there. They hurried back to the jeep and left.

After the soldiers approached Abu Na’im and left the scene, without providing him any medical assistance, youths from the village put him in a private car and he was taken to a medical center in the adjacent village of Turmusaya. During the journey, one of the youths tried to administer first aid. Abu Na’im was treated for a few minutes at the medical center and then transferred to hospital in Ramallah. He was clinically dead on arrival at the hospital. The hospital physicians pronounced him dead and stated that he had been killed by a “rubber” bullet that had penetrated his skull through his face. The firing of a “rubber” bullet from a range of around 20 meters at the upper torso is, of course, contrary to the open-fire regulations, precisely because of the high probability of lethal outcomes, as occurred in this case.

On 9 February 2018 it, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the Military Police have launched an investigation of the incident.

The cement posts Layth Abu Na’im hid behind. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 5 Feb. 2018
The cement posts where Layth Abu Na’im hid. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 5 Feb. 2018

Fathi Abu Na’im, 63, a married father of nine, was Abu Na’im’s grandfather and had raised him since the boy was two years old. In a testimony he gave on 5 February 2018 to B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, he described his grandson:

Fathi Abu Na’im. Photo: Iyad Hadead, 5 Feb. 2018
Fathi Abu Na’im

After his mother died when he was two, Layth lived with my wife and me. In 2005, his father remarried and left the village. We spoiled him a lot, more than our own children. We never let him feel that he was an orphan. After all our own children got married and left home, Layth was our pride and joy. We were closely involved in his life. He loved soccer and played as the goalkeeper on the school team and at the village club. He won lots of trophies and medals and dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player and being famous. He also liked to swim and when he visited his father in Beit Sira, he used to swim in the village pool there. He didn’t see the sea even once in his life, though – only the Dead Sea. I dreamed of taking him to see the sea and to visit Haifa and Jaffa. 
A soldier killed my grandson for no reason, in cold blood. My heart aches and I feel a terrible sense of loss. May God help his grandmother. She went into shock when she heard that he had died. She just looked at his photograph and cried. She can’t sleep at night – she wakes up all the time – and I wake up because of her crying. It’s a very bad feeling that words can’t describe.