(Photo: Israeli police)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday, after he carried out a stabbing attack that left three Israelis lightly injured, with witnesses asserting Israeli police could have easily detained the boy without killing him.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a written statement that a 17-year-old Palestinian armed with a knife stabbed and lightly injured two "Jewish young men" -- aged 18 and 23 -- at around 3:30 p.m.
Israeli forces chased after the teen, who ran inside a building that had its door left open, al-Samri said. As Israeli police struggled to detain him, one policeman was lightly injured, according to al-Samri.
More Israeli police officers arrived to the scene and opened heavy fire on the boy, killing him.
The slain Palestinian was identified by the Palestinian Ministry of Health as 17-year-old Ahmad Zahir Fathi Ghazal from Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank.
An eyewitness told Ma’an that he saw the the boy stab “two settlers” on al-Wad street in the Old City and escape into the nearby building, before Israeli forces ambushed Ghazal in a small apartment, which had no alternate exits.
“Then we heard sounds of intensive shooting coming from the building," he said."They could have detained him -- he was surrounded by a large number of soldiers. But they executed him."
According to the witness’ testimony, a female border police officer was seen exiting the building with a minor foot injury.
In a recording shared on social media by local watchdog the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, another eyewitness and shop owner on al-Wad street also said that Israeli police “could have detained him (Ghazal), but they didn't want to.”
“They ambushed him in the staircase. They could have detained him without any problem, but they wanted to kill him instead. We heard four soldiers riddling him with bullets. It was like a battlefield.”
A video was shared on social media purporting to show the moment after the two Israelis were stabbed, with one of their shirts visibly stained with blood.
The two, in traditional Haredi dress, can be seen walking away from the scene after a group of Israeli border police rush inside an open doorway, after which at least a dozen gunshots can be heard from inside.
Israeli intelligence officers cordoned off the building for the next two hours, dusting for fingerprints and cleaning blood off the walls, witnesses said.
When officers withdrew from the apartment, locals who approached the building were beaten by Israeli forces and forced to leave. Journalists were also prevented from taking photos.
Witnesses said more than 25 bullet holes were puncturing the walls of the apartment.
Israeli police meanwhile imposed heightened security measures in the area, forcing shops to close, and denying pedestrians access to the street.
One business owner said that Israeli police threatened to break everything inside their shops if they didn’t shut down.
Israeli soldiers forces took the identity cards of some 20 shop owners, and ordered them to appear at the nearby Israeli police station outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound's Chain Gate.
Amid the crackdown, witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli forces also attacked and shoved Palestinians at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City. Three people suffered from pepper spray burns on their faces.
Jerusalem-based news outlet the al-Quds Network published a series of photos of Ghazal at the Old City's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, saying the boy had taken the photos during a visit to the holy site earlier that day.
17-year-old Ahmad Zahir Fathi Ghazal
Israel has come under repeated criticism for using lethal force on Palestinians who posed no threat or could have been detained through nonlethal means, with the Palestinian leadership, rights groups, and the United Nations condemning Israeli forces of carrying out "extrajudicial executions."
Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian woman on Friday after she allegedly carried out a stabbing attack near Damascus Gate in the Old City, in which no Israelis were injured. The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the slain Palestinian woman as 49-year-old Siham Ratib Nimr, from East Jerusalem.
Al-Samri said at the time that Nimr was from the northern East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Khamis, which is cut off from the rest of the city by Israel's illegal separation wall.
Nimr was the mother of Mustafa Nimr, a 27-year-old Palestinian who was killed in September when Israeli border police showered his vehicle with live fire as he was driving near clashes outside of Shufat refugee camp, while he was bringing home food and baby clothes.
The number of Palestinians killed by Israelis has increased to 17 since the start of 2017, 16 of whom have been killed by Israeli armed forces, and another by an Israeli settler.
Though Israeli forces have claimed that Palestinians were allegedly attempting to carry out stabbing attacks when they were killed in seven of these cases, Palestinians and rights groups have disputed Israel's version of events in a number of cases.
Meanwhile, Palestinians have often cited the daily frustrations and routine Israeli military violence imposed by Israel's nearly half century occupation of the Palestinian territory as main drivers for such attacks.