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Muhammad Shahin. Photo courtesy of the family
From the field

Israeli security forces shoot and kill young Palestinian watching them clash with stone-throwers in Salfit

Muhammad Shahin. Photo courtesy of the family

On Tuesday afternoon, 12 March 2019, at about 3:00 P.M., soldiers and Border Police officers raided several areas in the town of Salfit, which lies southwest of Nablus, confiscating security cameras from local businesses and homes. The raid followed an incident the day before of shots fired at the highway close to the settlement of Ariel. After the security forces entered the town, residents in various areas threw stones at them, including around Abu Hejleh Square. Some 40 Palestinian youths came to the square and threw stones at about ten members of the security forces =who were standing near a-Shuhada Square, some 100 meters away. Some of the force found shelter behind trash cans, hurled stun grenades, and fired teargas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at the youths. They also fired live rounds into the air. During the stone-throwing incidents in the town, three residents were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets and another was lightly wounded in the hand by a live bullet. Forty other residents were injured by inhaling teargas. All the injured persons, except the man hit by a live bullet, were treated on the scene by the Red Crescent.

At about 4:30 P.M., the forces fired at stone throwers, hitting Muhammad Shahin, 23, a resident of Salfit who was watching the clashes along with others, in the chest. Shahin was about 20 meters from youths who were throwing stones at the security forces in a-Shuhada Square.

In a testimony taken on 13 March 2019 by B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, G.H., 40, a resident of Salfit, stated:

On Wednesday, 12 March 2019, at about four o’clock, I was at work in a store in the center of the town, about 150 meters from a-Shuhada Square. I heard live gunfire, which surprised me because our town is usually quiet and the army doesn’t enter very often. I went outside and after a few minutes I saw about six army jeeps parked near a-Shuhada Square. Muhammad Shahin, a young man I know very well, who often comes with his friends to the café next to where I work, was standing by me. Some young men who were about 20 meters away from us were throwing stones at the soldiers near the square, from a distance of about 100 meters. Most of the stones didn’t reach the soldiers, who were hiding behind two trash cans at the end of the street. A young man I don’t know was standing near us, and he said to Muhammad, “Abu Jamil, let’s go down,” encouraging him to join the stone throwers. Muhammad refused and said, “No. I always get hit even though I don’t do anything.” We continued to watch what was happening from the entrance to my store.

A bit later, Muhammad moved closer to the soldiers, but not more than 15 meters. I heard a single shot and I saw him run toward the sidewalk where I was standing. He put his hand on his chest and said, “I’ve been hit.” He fell to the ground. I went up to him and uncovered his chest. I saw a small entry hole to the left of his chest. Some guys came over and one of them put some tissue on his chest. He was bleeding a little.

‘Alaa Salameh, 24, a resident of Salfit who sells cooking gas canisters, was passing by Abu Hejleh Square on his way home from work at about 4:00 P.M. He stopped his car and got out. In a testimony taken on 25 March 2019 by B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Debi’, Salameh described what happened:

I saw a gathering of people from the town. On the road there were soldiers next to a-Shuhada Square, and a few more army jeeps parked on the road. I saw about 10 soldiers around the area. Some of them were standing behind trash cans. There were about 40-50 young men there – some of them were throwing stones at the soldiers. The young men were standing near the other square, Abu Hejleh Square, over 100 meters from a-Shuhada Square. I stopped a few meters from the square, by a delivery store. Muhammad Shahin, an old friend of mine, was there. We talked and laughed. Muhammad loved to joke around. Everything he said would make you laugh. We were there for about half an hour, and during this time the soldiers were firing “rubber” bullets, stun grenades, and teargas canisters. The guys were throwing stones on and off, moving closer to the soldiers and then backing off again.

Then we moved closer to the guys. We moved forward about 20 meters and stood on the opposite sidewalk. Soon after, while the stone-throwing continued, I heard a single shot. Then I saw Muhammad run in the opposite direction and fall down. I ran after him. One guy rolled up his clothes, and I saw a small hole in his chest. Everyone was shouting and calling for an ambulance. An ambulance that was nearby arrived and they put Muhammad inside.

I followed the ambulance to hospital in my car. At the hospital they told us that Muhammad was in very critical condition and that there was almost no chance that he would survive. A bit later they announced that he had fallen as a martyr. It wasn’t a surprise, because a chest wound doesn’t usually end up well, but we were still shocked when we heard it. Despite everything, I had been hoping that Muhammad would be saved. I still can’t believe what happened and I can’t accept that Muhammad isn’t with us. In my imagination I see him everywhere. Wherever I go I think that he’s going to pass by and sit down with me, or that he’s going to call me and ask me to go and hang out somewhere.

Muhammad Shahin, 23, was pronounced dead at the hospital in Salfit. His death is one of four that B’Tselem has investigated since the beginning of March, in which lethal gunfire was found to be clearly unjustified.

* On 21 April 2019, media reports stated that an MPIU investigation had been launched.