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It’s Been a Deadly Winter Along Israel’s West Bank Border

An Israeli soldier shot and killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, the sixth Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank this year.
March 20, 2014, 6:05pm
Photo by Montecruz Foto

Israel’s aggressive vigilance of its borders has resulted in the loss of another Palestinian life. On Wednesday, 15-year-old Yousef Nayif Yousef Shawamrah Abu-Akar was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in the south Hebron hills. According to the Israeli Defense Forces, Yousef was one of three Palestinian teenagers attempting to sabotage the large barrier wall that separates Israel from the West Bank.

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An IDF spokesperson told VICE news, “After verbally warning him to move away from the barrier, and after exhausting all other efforts, the soldier fired at the primary instigator’s lower extremities and a hit was confirmed.” The IDF did not elaborate on the other measures taken by the soldier before he fired on Yousef.

The teenager was taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment, where he died. Yousef’s family held a funeral on Wednesday in his hometown of Deir al-Asal, near Hebron, shortly after the return of his body. The IDF detained the two other Palestinian teenagers who were with him for questioning, and they remain in custody.

Hayat Abu-Saleh, an analyst with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, informed VICE news that Yousef was the sixth Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of 2014. Another 321 have been injured.

In a similar incident earlier this month, IDF soldiers shot and killed a 50-year-old Palestinian woman named Amna Qdaih near the border with Gaza.

A Different Account
Yousef’s family says that he was shot without warning as he crossed through a hole in the security barrier to forage wild thistles for cooking. “There was no threat, no sabotage,” his cousin Nafez told VICE News. “He crossed through to pick plants and support his family. The soldier killed him in cold blood.”

According to the family report given to B’Tselem, the Israeli human-rights organization, Yousef was shot after crossing through a hole in the barrier in order to pick gundelia, a Palestinian delicacy that grows in the south Hebron hills where the family’s village is located.

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His death comes just weeks after Amnesty International published an 85-page report documenting the use of excessive lethal force by Israeli security forces in the West Bank.

The report, titled “Trigger-Happy,” accuses the Israeli military and police of killing dozens of Palestinian, often minors, in situations where the victims posed no immediate threat.

According to Amnesty International, “Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity.”

While Israel hasn’t yet made its official investigation into Yousef’s death public, this shooting appears to be another example of unnecessary Israeli force.

Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem’s spokesperson, told VICE news, “Even if it turns out that this boy was cutting the fence, it is completely prohibited to shoot him with live ammunition. You can arrest him. But firing at him is not acceptable.”

These violent episodes aren’t uncommon. According to B’Tselem, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians in the West Bank in 2013 — the highest number in five years.

“We all have stories like this, every Palestinian does,” Omar Salif, a resident of Hebron, told VICE News. “Friends and family killed for resisting the occupation, or just being. This boy was shot for picking plants. Shot just like that.”

Image via Flickr