Israel attacks, kills children amid broad crackdown

Israeli forces invade Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem (Afif Amira - APA Images)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  May 28, 2021

As Palestinians are mourning the dead, healing wounds and surveying the devastation following Israel’s 11-day massacre in Gaza, their counterparts in Israel and the occupied West Bank are reeling from an ongoing spree of killings and arrests by Israeli forces.

This includes the apparent extrajudicial execution of a child in Jerusalem, and the death of another child who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier while out shopping for Eid al-Fitr in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Almost 30 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank since 10 May, and thousands more have been injured.

Settling scores

Israeli police launched a massive arrest campaign against Palestinian citizens of Israel following widespread protests in solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Dubbed “law and order” by the police, the campaign is “intended to intimidate and exact revenge,” according to legal advocacy group Adalah, which called it “a militarized war.”

By last Monday, more than 1,500 people had been arrested in connection with confrontations between Palestinian and Jewish residents in cities in Israel over recent weeks.

At least 70 percent of those detained were Palestinian citizens of Israel, according to The New York Times.

Israeli media also reported that the purpose of the arrests were to “settle the score” with what police claim are criminal gangs operating in Palestinian communities.

But the enormous disparity and focus on arresting Palestinians indicates a clear political motive.

“This is a war against Palestinian demonstrators, political activists and minors,” Adalah said, “employing massive Israeli police forces to raid the homes of Palestinian citizens.”

In contrast, Israeli authorities were well aware of and even supported the premeditated mob violence by Israeli Jewish extremists earlier this month.

The Israeli Jewish mobs used instant messaging services to organize and coordinate armed militias to attack Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Apparent execution of child

Israeli occupation forces killed a Palestinian teen last Monday, in what may be an extrajudicial execution, according to Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP).

Zuhdi Muhannad al-Tawil, 17, was accused of stabbing a soldier and a settler at a Jerusalem light rail stop, near Israeli police headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem light rail, an illegal settler railway linking Israel’s colonies on occupied Palestinian land, is seen by many Palestinians as a symbol of Israeli oppression.

Israeli police released a video showing Al-Tawil in an altercation near a train.

Al-Tawil then runs towards Route 60 where he is chased and shot by Israeli forces.

The video does not clearly show whether he was shot from the front or behind.

Another video filmed by a bystander shows Israeli forces firing at least three shots at al-Tawil after he was incapacitated and lying on the ground.

This “may amount to an extrajudicial killing,” DCIP said.

Videos circulated by local media shows Al-Tawil unconscious, handcuffed and lying on the ground.

A man with a gun on his waist appears to cut through Al-Tawil’s shirt with scissors.

The teenager was from Kufr Aqab, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

“Israeli forces routinely unlawfully kill Palestinian children with impunity, using intentional lethal force against Palestinian children when not justified by the situation,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, DCIP’s accountability program director.

DCIP added that international law requires that “intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable where there is a threat to life or serious injury.”

“If an individual allegedly carries out a criminal act, they should be apprehended in accordance with international law and afforded due process of law,” the group stated.

Israeli forces routinely resort to lethal force against Palestinians, even when they are fleeing or pose no immediate danger – a shoot-to-kill policy endorsed by Israel’s top officials.

Child shot in head while shopping

DCIP reported that another child, Muhammad Khalil Younis Freijat, died days after he was shot in the head on 12 May by an Israeli soldier in Hebron.

The 14-year-old had been out shopping for new clothes with a friend in the city’s Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood, to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

Confrontations had broken out between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian youths.

“Muhammad Khalil and the other child were at least 300 meters (1,000 feet) away from the clashes when an Israeli soldier shot him in the left eye with live ammunition,” DCIP reported.

Doctors at al-Ahli hospital were unable to remove the bullet lodged in the boy’s brain, and he was pronounced dead on 16 May.

Undercover squad kills man

Last Monday, a Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli Border Police unit in al-Bireh, a town near Ramallah.

Ahmad Jamil Fahd was from al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. His slaying also carries the hallmarks of a possible extrajudicial execution.

“The circumstances of the shooting were not immediately clear,” The Times of Israel reported, “and a Border Police spokesperson declined a request for comment.”

The outlet reported, citing an unnamed Israeli “security official,” that Fahd was allegedly “an accomplice to terrorists” who was “shot as Border Police sought to arrest terror operatives in a predawn raid.”

Local media reported that Fahd was killed by a unit of mistaravim – undercover Israeli agents who disguise themselves as Palestinians to abduct or kill Palestinians.

These agents have also been filmed infiltrating groups of Palestinians during protests.

Witnesses said the attackers left Fahd to bleed to death.

Local media circulated pictures of his funeral:

Shot in the back

Israeli police in occupied East Jerusalem shot a 16-year-old Palestinian girl in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet while she stood in front of her home on 18 May.

The incident was captured on video:

Jana Kiswani and her father had stepped out of their house to see what was happening in the street in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood when the girl was attacked as they were going back inside.

While sponge-tipped bullets are supposedly “less lethal,” they can cause permanent injuries and death.

The girl suffered serious injuries.

When her father Muhammad Kiswani tried to assist her, Israeli police shot him in the leg, Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported.

Occupation forces then fired a stun grenade that landed near the stricken girl and her father.

“The videos documenting the shooting show that the police officer who fired at Jana violated almost every clause in the rule of engagement,” Haaretz reported.

“They shot at an unarmed minor, did so at short range, and hit her in the upper body without aiming his weapon before shooting.”

“He wanted to commit murder,” Muhammad Kiswani told Israeli radio.

Jana was taken to hospital, where she was found to have a spinal fracture and possible kidney damage, according to Haaretz. She will require lengthy rehabilitation, doctors say.

The officer has been suspended by Israel’s police commissioner pending an investigation.

Human rights groups have long dismissed Israel’s self-investigation system as a “fig leaf for the occupation.”

Sheikh Jarrah is where Palestinians are resisting Israel’s plans to forcibly expel a number of Palestinian families to give their houses to Jewish settlers.

Earlier this month, Israeli police installed checkpoints at the neighborhood’s entrances, preventing Palestinians who do not live there from entering, while allowing Jewish extremists in.

The shooting of Jana Kiswani happened the same day Palestinians across historic Palestine held a general strike in protest against Israel’s occupation and its attack on Gaza.

It was one of dozens of violent attacks by occupation forces reported in recent weeks.

Israel’s escalation of violence against Palestinians throughout historic Palestine is intended as “blanket repression and collective punishment” of all who engage in protest and self-defense, as well as those who are uninvolved, according to Addameer.

Child detained

An 11-year-old Palestinian boy was detained last Monday by Israeli police while playing outside his home in Beit Hanina, an East Jerusalem neighborhood.

A widely circulated video shows Bassam Mazen al-Kiswani sitting in a police car as his two younger sisters plead with them not to take him away.

“I promise we won’t do it again,” one of the little girls cries to the police officers.

The boy’s father Mazen Bassam al-Kiswani said the pretext for the arrest was that Israeli settlers accused his son of throwing stones.

The boy was eventually released after his father and other family members intervened with the police.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility is 12 years old both under Israeli civil and military law, however the rights of Palestinian children are habitually violated by occupation forces.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting