The Israeli military is coming under criticism after its forces opened live fire on a bound and blindfolded Palestinian teenager as he ran away from a group of soldiers attempting to detain him.
The shooting took place on Thursday in the Bethlehem-area village of Tuqu, in the southern occupied West Bank, following funeral processions for a local teacher who was killed earlier in the week when an Israeli settler rammed into her with their vehicle.
Maan News Agency reported that after the funeral and subsequent protests, Israeli forces clashed with local youth in the area.
The victim, 16-year-old Tuqu resident Osama Hajahjeh, who has been hospitalized in a Palestinian hospital since last week, told AP journalists on Monday that he had been let out of school early to attend the funeral.
During the commotion, he says he was tackled, handcuffed, and blindfolded by the armed soldiers.
Despite an Israeli army statement saying they had arrested “an instigator of a violent protest,” and that the teen was participating in “massive stone throwing,” Hajahjeh has said that he was unarmed, Middle East Eye reported.
According to Hajahjeh’s version of the events, after he was bound and blindfolded and in the custody of soldiers on the scene, he heard some local youth shouting in Arabic, and the soldiers shouting back in Hebrew.
“I got confused and stood up,” the AP quoted the teen as saying, adding that when he got up, soldiers shot him in his right leg. “Then I tried to run, and I was shot in my left leg and fell on the ground,” Hajahjeh told reporters.
Local news agencies reported that the teen was shot in the groin area, allegedly at “point-blank” range. Wafa news reported that a a bullet had hit a main artery, causing heavy bleeding.
Video taken by witnesses at the scene shows two armed soldiers standing by Hajahjeh as he lay bleeding on the ground. The soldiers try to prevent any Palestinians from reaching the teen.
لم أشاهد هذا الخبر على أي قناة إخبارية عربية ولا أجنبية
طفل #فلسطيني حاول الهروب من من جنود الإحتلال بعد تربيط يديه وتغطيه عينيه
إلا أن جنود الاحتلال أطلقوا النار من مسافة صفر عليه وأغرقوه بدمه
بآخر الفيديو نشاهد نجاح الأهالي في تهريب الطفل ونقله للعلاج بسيارة pic.twitter.com/mRcesZjA9R
— محمد سعيد نشوان #فلسطين (@MohamdNashwan) April 19, 2019
After letting one woman in to help, one soldier can be seen tying a tourniquet on the teen’s leg. Another soldier screams aggressively, waving and pointing his machine gun and then hand gun at anyone who tries to approach the scene.
The screams of Palestinian bystanders can be heard in the background pleading for help.
After several minutes of chaos, the soldiers allow a group of Palestinians to carry Hajahjeh off and evacuate him in a private car. He was held over the weekend at a hospital in Bethlehem city, and is reported to now be in stable condition.
Following more media coverage of the shooting, an Israeli army spokesperson said the boy was “jointly” evacuated by Palestinians and the soldiers, drawing even more anger from critics who say the army is attempting to downplay their actions from the day.
According to Haaretz, the official said there will be an investigation into the shooting.
The AP quoted Roy Yellin, the spokesperson of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, as saying, “this is an example of Israel’s reckless use of lethal fire, and the fact that the human lives of Palestinians count very little in the eyes of the army.”
Israeli forces have long been criticized for what groups like B’Tselem have called an “excessive use of force,” specifically the use of live ammunition, against Palestinian citizens and unarmed protesters.
In many cases, rights groups say Israeli forces have critically wounded or killed a Palestinian when they posed no direct or imminent threat to the soldiers’ safety.
As of April 8th, the UN recorded that 14 Palestinians had been killed in the occupied West Bank since the year began.