Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. (AFP/File)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- An investigation into the death of an 18-year-old Palestinian earlier this week found that Israeli soldiers acted "disproportionately" and could have arrested the teenager if necessary, B'Tselem said Thursday.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, labelled her death as an "extrajudicial execution."
Hadeel al-Hashlamon was shot by Israeli forces on Tuesday morning at a checkpoint in Hebron separating the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the occupied West Bank city.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem says that in the Israeli military’s account of her death, "a metal detector went off when the Palestinian woman walked through the checkpoint. The soldiers called on her to stop and fired a few warning rounds toward the ground after she continued.”
Soldiers then claim “she pulled out a knife, and that's when they fired shots at her legs. The soldiers said they opened fire for a second time after the woman tried again to raise the knife.”
According to B'Tselem's investigation into the actual chain of events during the incident, al-Hashlamon had approached the checkpoint from the direction of the Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood on the Palestinian side, known as “H1.”
“She was wearing a Niqab, which covers the entire body, and holding a concealed knife,” B’Tselem said.
“She aroused suspicion among the soldiers and they told her to open her purse. For an unknown reason, al-Hashlamon froze and did not respond to their calls. One soldier shot at the ground, next to her.”
At this point a passing resident Fawaz Abu Aisha, arrived at the scene. Appearing that al-Hashlamon didn’t understand the soldier’s instructions -- reportedly given in Hebrew -- he tried to help her leave the checkpoint.
“As she was leaving the checkpoint, with a 1.2 meter metal barrier between her and the soldiers, a soldier called her to stop as he was shooting at the ground next to her, and then at her leg,” B’Tselem’s account said.
Abu Aisha's testimony, collected by the rights group, said that as the young woman fell, her right hand could be seen holding a knife.
“She did not get up, but the soldier shot her again, in the other leg, and seconds later in the torso,” the report said.
B’Tselem criticized the conduct of the soldiers involved in al-Hashlamon’s death on account of the fact that they didn’t take measures to “subdue” the woman before resorting to live fire.
“The claim that al-Hashlamon tried to stab soldiers...cannot be reconciled with the fact that there was a metal barrier between her and the soldiers at the time of the shooting,” the rights group argued, adding that it was unnecessary for the soldier to continue to shoot the young woman after she had already been hit in the legs.
The military should release video documentation of the incident from the checkpoint's security cameras, the group added.
"The military command’s knee jerk defense of the soldiers, as expressed in the military’s response to the incident, sends soldiers on the ground a clear message that when it comes to using force, including lethal force, against Palestinian civilians – there are very little limitations."
Such responses promote a culture of impunity for the forces, resulting in higher numbers of Palestinian civilian deaths, the group added.
Along with B'Tselem, Amnesty on Friday said that the young woman "at no time posed a sufficient threat to the soldiers to make their use of deliberate lethal force permissible.
"This killing is the latest in a long line of unlawful killings carried out by the Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank with near total impunity," the rights group added.
Despite conflicting accounts, the Israeli military on Thursday maintained its initial version of events, saying a preliminary review had been opened, as is standard for fatal incidents.