May: Deadly month for Palestinian boys

From left to right - Ghaith Yamin (16), Zaid Ghunaim (14), Thaer Maslat (16), Amjad Fayed (16) and Mutasem Atallah (17) (Defense for Children International-Palestine)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  June 2, 2022

May was a deadly month for Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.

Five Palestinian boys were killed by Israeli fire, bringing the number of children killed by Israeli forces this year to 13.

Israeli soldiers fired at Zaid Muhammad Said Ghunaim at a distance of 15-20 meters as he fled the area in the Palestinian town of Al-Khader on 27 May, according to a field investigation carried out by Defense for Children International-Palestine.

One eyewitness told DCIP that the area was calm and quiet and that at least three Israeli soldiers were deployed when Zaid was shot.

“Israeli forces fired on Zaid striking him in the shoulder. The bullet ruptured his lung and caused severe internal bleeding,” DCIP said.

Witnesses told the newspaper Haaretz that Zaid wasn’t participating in any confrontations with Israeli forces at all.

The teen was on his way to his grandmother’s house when he was shot in the back by Israeli occupation soldiers, relatives told the paper. His mother and sister were waiting for him there.

The Israeli occupation army claims people in the area threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at soldiers when they fired at Zaid, without even explicitly alleging that Zaid participated in those acts of resistance.

Haaretz reported that Zaid was shot “when he ​​passed by the soldiers, without provoking them,” citing witnesses.

Another eyewitness said that a crowd of youths threw rockets at soldiers, who responded with tear gas.

Muhammad Ghunaim, Zaid’s father, said that his son hoped to become a soccer player.

“He was never involved in clashes. He wasn’t involved in politics,” he told Haaretz.

“I almost went myself to the soldiers at the checkpoint to ask them – why did you do this to the boy?” his grandmother Zainab Ghunaim told Haaretz.

“He was a good boy, why are you doing this to children?”

The previous month, Zaid’s cousin 19-year-old Muhammad Ali Ghunaim was fatally shot by Israeli forces.

Also in Al-Khader, Israel fatally shot Muhammad Rizq Shehade Salah in February and left him to bleed while preventing an ambulance from reaching him.

He was just 13 years old.

Shot in the head

Two days before Zaid’s killing, Israeli occupation forces shot a 16-year-old boy in the head with live ammunition, killing him.

On 24 May, a large deployment of Israeli military vehicles arrived near Joseph’s Tomb, on the eastern outskirts of Nablus near the Balata refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

Joseph’s Tomb is an archeological site located in the heart of the city, and is considered sacred by Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Ghaith Muhammad Rafiq Ziad Yamin and other Palestinians confronted the soldiers’ invasion, according to DCIP. They were shot at with live ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas canisters by Israeli occupation forces.

Late that night, buses carrying Israeli settlers arrived in the area, which prompted Ghaith and his friends to move to the roof of a building several hours later.

Israeli settlers make regular incursions at the site under heavy escort from the Israeli army.

“Israeli forces deployed in a nearby building fired at least four bullets from a third-floor window that was exactly opposite to Ghaith,” DCIP said, citing an eyewitness, killing Ghaith in the early hours of 25 May.

Deadly month

Three other Palestinian boys were killed by Israeli fire last month.

On 21 May, during an Israeli military invasion of the city of Jenin, 16-year-old Amjad Walid Hussein Fayed and other Palestinian youth approached occupation army vehicles and threw Molotov cocktails at them, an eyewitness told DCIP.

Israeli forces opened fire, fatally wounding Amjad with multiple shots, including one live bullet to the chest.

Occupation forces killed 16-year-old Thaer Maslat as he was merely observing confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youths on 11 May.

“Thaer did not pose any threat to Israeli forces when he was shot,” DCIP said.

Thaer was killed the same day as Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who by all indications was murdered by an Israeli soldier that morning.

Mutasem Muhammad Taleb Atallah, 17, was fatally shot on 8 May inside the Jewish-only settlement of Tekoa in the occupied West Bank.

“Mutasem was killed by a single bullet to the left eye,” DCIP said.

The teenager had an argument with his father that afternoon and left his home and headed to the settlement. His parents left the house looking for him.

An Israeli intelligence officer called the father and ordered him to go to the settlement entrance. A soldier told the father his son had been shot and killed after entering the settlement with a knife.

“DCIP has been unable to confirm the specific circumstances of Mutasem’s killing, including whether he was shot by an Israeli soldier, private security contractor or an Israeli settler,” the group said.

The child’s body is being withheld by Israel, making it impossible for an independent party to carry out a forensic examination.

“That is 13 lives lost, 13 lives cut short, 13 dreams shattered,” United Nations children’s agency UNICEF stated, referring to the number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank so far in 2022, “almost double the number compared to last year.”

“A child is a child, and their right to life must be protected by all parties,” UNICEF added. It is unclear what other parties the organization is referring to, given that all 13 of those Palestinian children were killed by Israeli fire.

“Children should never be targeted. They should never be put in harm’s way or be exposed to violence,” UNICEF added.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada