In the aftermath of the death of Palestinian prisoner, Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh, from cancer, unrest spread throughout the West Bank, leading to youth protests against Occupation forces. In one of those protests outside Tulkarem, several teenage boys were throwing rocks at an IDF “pillbox.” In the midst of this, the soldiers manning the position, who hail from an ultra-Orthodox unit known to include many ultra-nationalist settlers, used live fire and killed one of the boys instantly. The others fled, pursued by soldiers who ran out of their fortified position to track them down. In this pursuit of unarmed boys, another was shot and killed by the IDF. He was shot in the back. Yet the soldier who killed him claimed he did so out of fear for his life. You don’t shoot an unarmed boy in the back because you fear for your life.
The justification offered by the IDF for the killings was that the youths were throwing fire-bombs at them. The only reference I’ve heard from the Palestinian side that supports this is one of the survivors who said that while he was throwing stones, he noted a “bottle” (not a firebomb) next to Amar Nasser’s body. We may presume he intended to use this as a firebomb, but clearly since it was next to his body it hadn’t been thrown. Which means that someone may or may not have thrown firebombs at this position. It may or may not have been one of the murdered boys. The only way to answer the question is for the IDF to release video footage (unedited) of the incident. This will corroborate the army’s story if true.
Palestinians who attempted to approach Nasser who lay wounded (three bullets in the chest) at the scene were forbidden from doing so. A Palestinian ambulance was prevented from attending to him for 30 minutes, during which he died. Allowing the boy to bleed to death was a deliberate act of murder. The wounded survivor of the group said that he searched for the second boy who died but his body was not found till the next day. This leads him to believe that he was apprehended by the IDF and similarly killed or shot during a pursuit. The fact that no one found his body till the next day is a mystery the IDF should explain.
The army has also claimed that a lookout told the unit that he had heard weapons fired by Palestinians. Again, we don’t know if there was such a report or whether this is made up after the fact. But even if it there was, the report turned out to be false. As a result, two precious (at least to Palestinians, if not the IDF) lives are lost unnecessarily and the West Bank is thrust to the bring of a third Intifada.
By the way, can anyone explain to me why there needs to be an IDF presence at this particular location? Why does there need to be any IDF presence on the West Bank in areas populated by Palestinians? Isn’t that why there’s Palestinian security forces? So to all those who will argue in the threads about how heinous it is to attack Israeli soldiers and you get what you deserve if you do so I respond: the existence of IDF position in the West Bank is itself an unnecessary provocation. If the IDF wasn’t there, there would be nothing to protest. If however the IDF wants to provoke Palestinians to violence, then putting its positions right in the midst of Palestinian population centers is a great idea.
Further, stationing the most extreme of Haredi settler soldiers in such an exposed position is another disaster waiting to happen. What do you expect such a boy to do when faced with Palestinian resistance of even the most limited sort? Do you think he will exercise caution? That he will think of the consequences of his actions? That he will forebear using his weapons to wipe out the perceived threat?
The IDF has announced an “investigation” of the incident: good luck with that!
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.