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19-year-old Palestinian shot and killed by Israeli forces in Jenin refugee camp

Jan. 29, 2017 10:34 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 29, 2017 7:43 P.M.)
19-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Khalifa
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian and injured several others early Sunday morning in Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank, after clashes erupted following an Israeli army raid into the camp.

Locals identified the slain young man as 19-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Khalifa, with sources saying he was shot with a live bullet in the lower back that went through his body, emerging from his abdomen. 

Medical sources could not immediately be reached to confirm the nature of his injuries.

State-run Palestinian news agency Wafa said that Abu Khalifa was left on the ground for hours before paramedics were able to evacuate his body.

At least five other Palestinian youth were injured, including one seriously, and were evacuated to Jenin hospital for treatment.

After undercover Israeli forces in a civilian vehicle infiltrated the camp, dozens of military vehicles stormed the area, sparking violent clashes that continued for several hours, according to reports.

Israeli forces heavily fired live ammunition, stun grenades, and tear gas into the camp as youth threw stones and Molotov cocktails.

Shortly after, a funeral procession was held for Abu Khalifa, with hundreds of mourners carrying his body through the streets of the camp.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the clashes to Ma’an via telephone, saying that “violent rioters attacked and hurled pipe bombs” at Israeli forces, with no injuries reported among Israeli forces.

“Responding to the threat, forces fired toward main instigators,” the spokesperson added. She said that “hits were confirmed,” but did not directly confirm Abu Khalifa’s killing or the number of Palestinians to be injured.

The purpose of the hours-long raid remained unclear, as the Israeli army spokesperson said that no detentions were made in the camp. However, Muhammad's cousins were detained in a raid into Jenin refugee camp on Thursday, with the Israeli army claiming brothers Muhammad and Ahmad Abu Khalifa were “Hamas operatives.”

On Friday, four Palestinians were injured by being assaulted or shot with rubber-coated steel bullets during a predawn raid in the camp, when no detentions were reported.

Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Due to the typically aggressive nature of the raids, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones and are met in response with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, often resulting in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries.

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

Abu Khalifa’s killing came almost two weeks after Israeli forces killed 17-year-old Qusay Hassan al-Umour after shooting him with live ammunition in the chest during clashes in the Bethlehem-area village of Tuqu.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an at the time that "violent riots" erupted in Tuqu, and also claimed al-Umour had been the “main instigator” among “hundreds” of Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli border police.

However, a video of the events taken immediately after the teen was shot seemingly contradicted the allegation that al-Umour was the "main instigator" in the clashes, as the video shows Israeli forces running towards his motionless body, lying in a field at least 100 meters away from the road where the clashes were taking place that seemed only to involve dozens of stone throwers.

Last week an investigation was opened by the Israeli army in conjunction with military police, in accordance with the Israeli Justice Ministry's policy that a joint investigation “must be made into every instance of a Palestinian killed in the West Bank during a non-combat situation.”

Meanwhile, Israeli rights group B’Tselem released a report and video on Tuesday revealing that 17-year-old Ahmad Hazem Ata Zidani, who was killed in December 2016, was fleeing from the scene of clashes when Israeli forces shot him.

“B'Tselem’s investigation shows that the security forces killed Zidani, 17, and injured N.R. despite the fact that they were a danger to no one,” the report said, referring to a second unidentified youth who was also shot amid the clashes.

“At the time they were shot, they were some 10-20 meters away from the soldiers and officers, and they were running away from them. There was no justification for shooting them and this action was unlawful.”

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an at the time that Israeli forces dispersed a “large crowds of violent rioters,” and did not directly confirm Zidani’s death.

“Over the years, referring cases to the military law enforcement system with a view to promoting real accountability has proved ineffective,” B’Tselem wrote in their report. “Even when a military investigation was actually launched, it nearly always wound up as a whitewash.”

When asked Sunday morning if the army was opening an investigation to Abu Khalifa’s death, a spokesperson told Ma’an they would look into the matter.

According to Ma'an documentation, this is the eighth Palestinian to have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year.

Five Israelis, either soldiers or police officers, have been killed by Palestinians during the same time period, all in alleged vehicular attacks.

Ma'an recorded the deaths of 112 Palestinians and 15 Israelis in 2016 as a result of violence from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
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