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Israel to release body of Palestinian teenager killed after allegedly throwing stones

Dec. 15, 2016 4:46 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 16, 2016 12:09 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have decided to return the body of slain 15-year-old Palestinian Khalid Bahr Ahmad Bahr to his family on Friday in the village of Beit Ummar in the occupied West Bank district of Hebron, sources at the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee said on Thursday.

The sources added that the slain teenager would be buried on Saturday.

Bahr was shot dead by Israeli forces on Oct. 20 after allegedly throwing stones at a group of Israeli soldiers stationed near the Beit Ummar junction in the northern part of the village. A local activist, Muhammad Ayyad Awwad, told Ma’an at the time that Israeli forces had shot the minor in the back, with the bullet exiting through his chest.

Awwad also said at the time that Israeli soldiers prevented a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance from approaching the youth, while witnesses said that Israeli forces refused to provide CPR to the youth after he was shot, leaving the teenager to bleed out on the ground.

At the time of the incident, Israeli authorities had assured the Beit Ummar mayor that the slain teenager’s body would be returned the following day. However, Israeli authorities have kept the body for 57 days, preventing Palestinian authorities from conducting an autopsy or initiating an independent investigation around the circumstances of his death.

However, less than a week after the youth was shot dead, an Israeli army internal investigation revealed that the soldiers were not in imminent danger and did not act in accordance with the army’s open-fire regulations, which state that “soldiers should not shoot to kill unless they are in an immediate and clear danger.”

Bahr was one of 243 Palestinians to have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers since a wave of violence first spread across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October 2015.

Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their excessive use of force against Palestinians, including minors, during incidents that did not warrant a violent response.

Palestinian stone throwers face harsh penalties by Israeli authorities, with Israel passing a law last year setting sentences up to 20 years in prison for stone throwing if intent to harm could be proven, and a minimum prison sentence of three years for throwing a stone at an Israeli as part of a harsh crackdown which has led to the detention of hundreds of Palestinian minors every year.

However, Palestinians have claimed that rock throwing by teenagers represents a natural reaction to the frustrations caused by the nearly half-century Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which has been shaped by everyday forms of violence, such as nightly military raids into Palestinian communities, arbitrary detentions, home demolitions, and frequent killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities dramatically escalated a policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed by Israeli forces since late 2015, having repeatedly claimed that funerals of Palestinians had provided grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state.

However, following an uproar of protest among Palestinians over the policy, Israeli authorities began scaling down the practice, although a number of bodies still remain withheld.
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