On July 30th the UN issued an unusually angry briefing concerning the July 12 shooting of a nine-year-old Palestinian child, Abdul Rahman Shteiwi, by Israeli Security Forces during the weekly protest in the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum. While protesters were burning tires and throwing stones Israeli soldiers appear to have resorted to using live ammunition, the UN says without apparent justification for escalation to lethal force.
The protest has happened every Friday for about eight years in protest at the closure of the main access road from Kafr Qadum to Nablus after the expansion of the adjacent Israeli settlement of Kedumim. Since then, Kafr Qadum residents have had to travel the long way round to get to Nablus, the regional capital. According to elders the protests are always the same – stone throwing and shouting, little more.
This time, about 200 meters from the main protest about ten protesters threw stones at four soldiers. About 100 meters away, a local resident sat under an olive tree with his two children. About 10 meters from him, Abdul Rahman Shteiwi was sitting at the entrance to a house playing with a piece of wood. There was a shot from the main demonstration and the boy fell. People ran, and he was carried to an ambulance, waiting on standby, and taken to Nablus where Dr Othman Othman, neurosurgical chief, said “he had a penetrating injury in the frontal lobe on the right side… There are more than 100 fragments…This is not a rubber bullet, this is a metal bullet. A rubber bullet will not enter because it does not have a sharp head. This is something that had a sharp head.” Two days later the child was transferred to intensive care in Tel Hashomer in Tel Aviv. Scans show dozens of fragments in his head and serious brain damage, from which he will not recover. A British international observer at the scene told the press that Israeli soldiers acted with “super-disproportionate” violence. Other international observers found a 5.56 bullet case on the ground where protesters had been standing that was “hot to touch, suggesting it had been fired that afternoon.”
The Israeli military deny that soldiers used live fire, rejecting responsibility for the incident, and saying only that the soldiers had used “various crowd-control methods.” They say there will be an investigation. The UN say Israel military policy permits the use of live fire against Palestinians who do not pose a threat, and suggest Israel’s investigatory system is “a whitewashing system,” the shooting one of a long list of incidents in the occupied territories in which juveniles have been injured or killed in circumstances that strongly suggest use of excessive force. They say lethal force should only be used in circumstances where there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury to security forces or others, and in strict application of international human rights standards. The UN is outraged.
The village is outraged too. Will anything change? It’s too late for Abdul Rahman Shteiwi. As this article goes online he remains in a coma.
For the UN press release of July 30th see here.