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Palestinian teen was celebrating friends' visit before being killed by army, survivor recounts

June 22, 2016 2:44 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 4, 2016 7:37 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Five teenage Palestinian boys were on their way home after midnight Monday morning, after spending the evening at a swimming pool in the village of Beit Sira west of Ramallah, celebrating the recent arrival from Qatar of friends who were to spend the summer in their hometown of Beit Ur al-Tahta.

However, their fun came to a halt when an Israeli soldier began showering the car with live fire, killing 15-year-old Mahmoud Raafat Badran and seriously injuring four others, one of whom told Ma'an about the development of events that led to the teenager's death.

One of the injured, Dawood Issam Abu Hassan, 16, told Ma’an that they were “surprised by a man wearing black plain clothes who stepped out of a white Toyota and started to fire at them.” The soldier was later identified by Israeli media as being a member of the Kfir Brigade.

Dawood said that he and another teenager in the car managed to run away from the vehicle after it was first hit, and hid under a bridge near the area to avoid more live fire.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud received deadly gunshot wounds, and two brothers were also seriously wounded in the incident. Two of the wounded were identified to Ma'an as Majdi Badran, 16, who was visiting from Qatar, and suffered from a chest injury; and Khaled Badran, who was in serious condition.

According to Dawood, Israeli forces arrived quickly, and immediately began smashing the Palestinians' vehicle, which had crashed into the guardrails.

The parents of the boys who had recently arrived from Qatar told Ma’an they were traveling in a car behind the car their sons were in, and were forced to witness the incident unfold in front of them, calling the attack an “Israeli crime.”

Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulances said Israeli soldiers prevented paramedics from reaching the wounded Palestinians for over an hour and a half.

Mahmoud’s father works as an ambassador for the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia for several years, and served a 15-year sentence in Israeli prisons until 1999.

The Israeli army admitted to “mistakenly” opening fire on innocent bystanders after Palestinian youth were reportedly throwing stones at Israeli settler vehicles in the area. Israeli media initially reported that Mahmoud and his friends traveling in the car were “terrorists.”

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an at the time of the incident that after a number of Palestinian youth had hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at moving Israeli settler vehicles on route 443 west of Ramallah, adding that "Israeli forces acted to protect additional vehicles from immediate danger and fired toward the suspects and bystanders were mistakenly hit."

The road is the main link between Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, making it a prime location for Palestinian youth who throw stones in the area.

Palestinians were completely forbidden from using route 443 -- labeled the “apartheid road” by local Palestinians -- until 2009 when an Israeli High Court ruled that the ban on Palestinian usage must be lifted. However, Israeli forces continued to largely restrict Palestinian access to the road by erecting checkpoints where Palestinians are forced to undergo in-depth security measures to receive permission to pass.

The Israeli military opened an investigation into the killing on Tuesday. However, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, only three percent of investigations undertaken by the Israeli army have resulted in charges being brought against soldiers, creating little hope in Palestinians and rights groups that the investigation will result in any serious action.

Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Taysir Khalid of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) denounced the killing on Wednesday.

"The fact that Israeli troops easily pull the trigger at crossroads and military checkpoints across the West Bank is a natural result of the mainstream education and the incitement dominating the Israeli military and political circles," Khalid said.

He added that the targeting of young Palestinian boys reflected the "blind racism" that permeates throughout Israeli society.

On Tuesday, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erakat strongly condemned the killing, saying: “This cold-blooded assassination reaffirms our calls to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, to initiate an immediate extensive investigation into Israeli extrajudicial killings of Palestinians; particularly children,” the statement read.

“The international community has the responsibility to stop allowing Israel’s impunity for the crimes it commits against the occupied land and people of Palestine.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in response to the killing: “If it were not for the difficult security situation, which is entirely the result of incitement and Palestinian terror, Israel would not be forced to use force in order to protect its civilians,” despite the Israeli army’s admission that Badran had nothing to do with the stone-throwing incident.

Mahmoud is one of more than 220 Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since a wave of political unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October. While a number of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces, the majority were shot dead after alleged attacks and attempted attacks against Israelis, with nearly 30 Israelis killed during the same period.

Rights groups have challenged Israel's narrative, claiming that the killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces amount to “extrajudicial executions,” as they have been carried out even when there was no threat of immediate danger.

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