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Israel launches investigation into Palestinian teen's killing in Tuqu

Jan. 23, 2017 7:14 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 24, 2017 4:23 P.M.)
Mourners carry the body of 17-year-old Qusay al-Umour out of the Beit Jala hospital on Jan. 17, 2017. (MaanImages/Yumna Patel, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into last week’s killing of 17-year-old Qusay al-Umour, which sparked outrage after a video was released showing Israeli forces dragging the teen by his limbs as his head banged against a stone-ridden dirt pathway.

Haaretz reported on Monday that the 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.”

The Times of Israel said that the opening of the investigation the Israeli army “indicated it was no longer certain the soldiers had conducted themselves correctly.”

Al-Umour was shot and killed by Israeli border police officers last Monday during clashes on a shared Israeli settler-Palestinian road in Tuqu, close to the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Tekoa.

Both Haaretz and the Times of Israel highlighted the army’s initial claims that al-Umour was a main “instigator” in the “violent riots,” with the Times of Israel including the claim that “over 200 Palestinians” participated in the protests, both claims made by the Israeli army to Ma’an last week.

Contrary to the army’s claims, locals in Tuqu and witnesses told Ma’an that there were fewer than a dozen teens from the village throwing rocks at Israeli military jeeps before al-Umour was shot.

Meanwhile, a video taken by Palestinian journalist Hisham Abu Shaqra published shortly after the incident showed al-Umour lying motionless in a field, an estimated 100 meters away from the clashes, just after he was shot.

Human rights NGO BADIL released a statement on Wednesday calling al-Umour’s death an “extrajudicial killing,” saying that the video footage provided “evidence contradicting Israeli accounts and raises concerns about the adherence of the Israeli forces to the central tenets of international law.”

The group quoted Abu Shaqra, the journalist who recorded the video, who said that al-Umour was not a threat to Israeli forces when he was fatally shot.

“Qusay was sitting between olive trees, you know how guys are, he was just watching the soldiers...Only a few seconds after (I was) looking at him the Israeli forces shot him three or four times,” Abu Shaqra said.

Al-Umour was the fourth Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in January 2017. Two more Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the week since.

In dozens of cases, Israel’s version of events has been disputed by witnesses, activists, and rights groups who have denounced what they have termed a "shoot-to-kill" policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner -- amid a backdrop of impunity for Israelis who committed the killings.

According to rights group Yesh Din, of 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians opened by the Israeli army in 2015, just four resulted in indictments.

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