Mondoweiss / August 1, 2022
Eyewitnesses say Amjad Abu Alia was shot by fire that came from the direction of Jewish settlers, who were documented shooting and throwing rocks at Palestinians in the area.
On Saturday, July 30th, the town of Al-Mughayyir, bid farewell to one of their children, Amjad Nashaat Abu Alia, who was shot and killed one day prior, on Friday July 29th.
Abu Alia, only sixteen years old, was killed as he tried to escape Jewish settlers and soldiers who were firing live ammunition and throwing stones at unarmed Palestinian protestors in the village, which lies in the Ramallah district of the occupied West Bank.
Abu Alia was participating in a demonstration along with residents of the town and visiting activists, as an attempt to curb the escalating settler attacks on their village in recent weeks.
As the unarmed protestors raised Palestinian flags and chanted against the settler-colonial expansion, they were met by the Jewish settlers from the neighboring Adei-Ad illegal outpost. The Israeli army also fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators.
According to eyewitnesses, a number of armed Jewish settlers also assaulted the demonstrators as well as journalists and threw rocks at them as soldiers stood by.
The settler violence, in tandem with that of the army, sparked further confrontations by local Palestinian youth from the village who throwing stones back. Video footage taken by journalists at the scene showed Israeli soldiers firing live ammunition at the demonstrators while settlers threw rocks at the Palestinians.
Eyewitnesses and journalists told Mondoweiss that a number of armed settlers also fired live ammunition at the Palestinians. It remains unconfirmed if the bullet that killed Abu Alia came from Israeli soldiers or the settlers.
Abu Alia was evacuated to a hospital after he was shot in the chest with live ammunition, and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. At least two other Palestinians were injured with live ammunition, including one who was shot in the thigh and was reportedly in critical condition. Three others were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets.
Ramallah Governor Dr. Laila Ghannam told journalists that “we haven’t yet investigated the matter deeply, but we witnessed that the gunshot that hit the youth came from the side of the settlers, not from the army.”
According to Haaretz, the Israeli army said it was “aware of the claim” that a Palestinian was killed, but did not elaborate. This is a trend that continues to persist with the Israeli army.
Abu Alia is the 17th Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli violence since the start of this year.
Settlers armed with pistols & M16s: ‘It was horrifying’
Hadi Sabarna, a Palestinian photojournalist who was at the scene the moment Abu Alia was shot, told Mondoweiss that it was both Israeli soldiers and settlers who fired in Abu Alia’s direction.
“It was horrifying, there was a young settler and she was in casual dress with her phone in one hand and a pistol in the other,” he said.
“There were also the settlers that had their M-16’s with them. It was as though the army was training them to shoot and attack, and interfered only to serve the settlers,” continued Sabarna.
Maher Naasan, a Palestinian activist who was at the demonstration, and was also injured with a rubber bullet to his chest, told Mondoweiss that, “the kid [Abu Alia] was targeted by the settlers. He didn’t pose any threat to their lives.”
Naasan added that the settlers escalated the situation from the beginning, when they showed up to the protest armed with guns and began attacking the Palestinian protesters.
Sabarna explained that it wasn’t simply the army, but that one of the settlers also fired at Abu Elia the moment the army fired.
Remembering the scene near the main street in al-Mughayyir, Sabarna explained “Amjad and youth were running away from settlers who were throwing stones.”
“The soldiers went after the shabab (youth) and shot at them, with settlers still attacking from behind the soldiers.”
As soldiers and settlers continued targeting the youth, who were at this point attempting to flee the armed violence Sabarna says, “the shabab threw stones back as protection.” The settlers and the army continued to fire at the Palestinians, eventually striking three of them, including Abu Alia.
“Amjad was thirsty, when the shots were fired I saw he had a water bottle in his hand,” Sabarna recalled to Mondoweiss. “He opened the bottle but he didn’t have the chance to drink from it, he ran with the bottle in his hand.”
Emboldened settler assaults
Al-Mughayyir, a small town just 27 km northeast of Ramallah, has a population of 3,102 residents. For years the community faced unrelenting threats of intensifying settler assaults and forcible annexation with the Israeli military as the vanguard.
Just a few weeks ago on July 10, settlers attacked a Palestinian man in al-Mughayyir, who needed to be hospitalized for his injuries. In January 2019, a mob of armed settlers attacked the town and killed Hamdi Naasan, 38, and pursued and injured more than 30 of the town’s residents. Despite attempts by Palestinian youth to throw stones at settlers as a deterrence, nine Palestinians were critically injured with live ammunition and hospitalized at the time.
“This is something that keeps happening. Our peaceful protests come in light of the violence we see from settlers that have closed down entrances to the village, assaulted shepherds in the area, and attacked us,” Naasan said.
In 2011 and 2014, Jewish settlers from Adei-Ad burned the mosque in al-Mughayyir in two separate incidents, desecrating a place of worship. The Adei-Ad outpost, which was established by a handful of Jewish settlers in 1998, is illegal under international law and Israeli law.
Despite being ordered to evacuate the outposts in the early 2000s, the settlers maintain a presence there and frequently engage in attacks on Palestinians in the surrounding areas, including al-Mughayyir. There is a plan to make Adei-Ad part of the nearby Amihai settlement, thereby legalizing the outpost.
“We live between an army that closes off our access to our lands and kicks out the Palestinian under the pretext of ‘closed military zone,’ yet somehow lets Israeli civilians and citizens to go as they please,” Naasan said.
“This is all part of settlers trying to drive us out.”
Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss