RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Witnesses to an alleged stab attempt on Israeli border police at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank Wednesday said two siblings shot dead
during the incident posed no threat at the time the Israeli officer killed them.
Witnesses told Ma’an that 23-year-old Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, five months pregnant, and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim were en route to Jerusalem when they took a path intended for vehicles, not pedestrians, into Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah. The two were apparently unable to understand Israeli officers yelling in Hebrew, and stopped walking.
Witnesses said it appeared that Ibrahim attempted to grab his sister's hand and move away from the officers, when they opened fire on her. Maram fell to the ground and when Ibrahim attempted to aid her, he was shot in his tracks.
A Palestinian bus driver present at the scene, Muhammad Ahmad, told Ma’an that the Israeli officer who opened fire on Maram was standing behind a cement block some 20 meters away from her at the time. The driver said it did not appear that Maram or her brother posed any threat when the officer shot them.
Palestinian local and witness to the incident Ahmad Taha told Ma’an that Israeli officers approached the two after they had been shot and had fallen to the ground before opening fire on them again “to ensure that they were dead,” adding that the officers “could have moved the two away without opening fire.”
Taha alleged that the officers planted knives on the scene, photographs of which were distributed by Israeli police who said they had been in Maram and Ibrahim’s possession.
The witness accounts collected following the incident contradict Israeli police reports that the officer opened fire after Maram threw a knife in their direction.
Local sources said Maram was the mother of a six and four-year-old, and five months pregnant. She had reportedly obtained a permit from the Israeli authorities to enter Jerusalem for the first time when she was crossing on Wednesday.
Maram and her 16-year-old brother are among over 200 Palestinians to be killed by Israeli forces or settlers since October, the majority during small-scale attacks that have left nearly 30 Israelis dead.
Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip denounced the deaths Wednesday and called for continued resistance against the Israeli occupation.
Daoud Shihab, spokesperson of the Islamic Jihad movement, referred to their deaths as an “execution,” while Fawzi Barhum of Hamas said the move by the Israeli officer to shoot the two was “systematic terrorism” and a “hideous crime that has crossed all red lines,” adding that the “crime would not go without punishment.”
Maram and Ibrahim’s deaths come in the wake of mass criticism towards what has been termed Israel’s policy of “extrajudicial executions” towards Palestinians, which most recently came under spotlight after an Israeli soldier was caught on film
shooting a prone Palestinian through the head from point blank range.
Israel's excessive use of force against Palestinians has brought allegations from local and international NGOs, senior UN officials and foreign leaders, and prominent US congressmen
that Israeli forces regularly carry out unlawful killings.
Popular Palestinian support for stab attacks -- widely explained by Palestinian and international leadership as a natural response to the effects of the ongoing Israeli military occupation -- has hovered below fifty percent for the past two months, according to polls, coinciding with a relative drop in the frequency of such attacks that initially surged in October.
A reduction in stab attacks has been attributed to security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, as well as to general public sentiments that the attacks are not effective in resistance against the occupation, according to polls.