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B'Tselem denounces Israel for unjustified killing of Palestinian teen in Jerusalem

May 10, 2017 6:15 P.M. (Updated: May 17, 2017 10:20 A.M.)
16-year-old Fatima Hjeiji, moments after she was shot multiple times by Israeli forces
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After 16-year-old Fatima Hjeiji was shot dead in occupied East Jerusalem for allegedly attempting to carry out a knife attack on Israeli police and border police guards, Israeli NGO B’Tselem denounced the incident as yet another example of Israel's shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians who did not pose a real danger.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an at the time that Hjeiji had been standing more than ten meters away from a group of Israeli border guard soldiers, when one of them shouted “Knife! Knife!” Moments later, five soldiers opened fire at her, shooting her with some 10 to 20 bullets.

The account was corroborated by B’Tselem, which, after conducting inquiries into the incident, stated that “Hjeiji, who stopped several meters away from the officers, did not pose a danger to (Israeli forces).”

As witnesses had highlighted to Ma’an at the time, some of the police forces' bullets also hit a nearby taxi.

“The police -- who were standing behind a metal barrier, were armed and wearing protective gear -- could have subdued Hjeiji and taken her into custody without resorting to gunfire, certainly not lethal gunfire. Instead, they shot and killed a 16-year-old girl,” B’Tselem said.

B’Tselem noted that Israel’s Jerusalem District Police Commander Major General Yoram Halevy defended the shooting as lawful and appropriate. Israeli police spokespersons at the time said the officers had acted “determinedly and professionally” when they killed the teenager.

“The District Commander’s statement completely ignores the facts of the case: Hjeiji’s youth, the fact that she stood motionless, the short distance between her and the officers, the metal barrier separating her from the officers, and the obvious conclusion -- that the officers shot and killed her when she posed no threat to them,” B’Tselem wrote.

“This statement, like similar sentiments expressed by other senior ranking officials and a mood of general hostility ever since October 2015, encourages security personnel to shoot to kill even in cases such as this, where lethal measures are unwarranted,” the human rights organization argued.

“This is no isolated incident,” B’Tselem affirmed, echoing numerous the numerous cases in which Israeli forces have been condemned for carrying out a “shoot-to-kill” policy of Palestinians who could have easily been disarmed and detained without being shot to death by Israeli forces.
A photo of Fatima Hjeiji shared on social media.

An Israeli settler was shot and killed earlier this month at a military checkpoint, who Israeli police initially mistook for a Palestinian. About a month ago, almost at the very spot where Hjeiji was killed, and under similar circumstances, Israeli forces shot and killed 49-year-old Siham Nimr, who allegedly brandished a pair of scissors at them from the other side of the police barricade.

“The continued policy of fatally shooting Palestinians who do not pose a mortal danger illustrates the manifest discrepancy between the recognized and accepted principle that prohibits such use of gunfire, and a reality in which shoot-to-kill incidents are a frequent occurrence and are encouraged by senior officials and wide public support,” B’Tselem concluded in their report.

Israel has routinely denied it carries out unlawful killings as a matter of policy. However, an event recently held for children by Israeli police demonstrated how to “take over a terrorist" in a dramatic reenactment, showing Israeli police officers pulling up on motorcycles and immediately opening fire on an “assailant” with dozens of live rounds.

Meanwhile, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross's delegation to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) Jacques De Maio also denied that Israel implemented a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians in a recent interview, when he also denied that Israel fits the label of an apartheid state, despite the ICRC's alleged role as an “impartial humanitarian mediator."
“No, there is no apartheid here, no regime of superiority of race, of denial of basic human rights to a group of people because of their alleged racial inferiority,” De Maio declared, also saying that the ICRC “came to the unequivocal conclusion that there are no shoot to kill orders of suspects by IDF (Israeli army), as some political elements tried to convince us.”

His comments sparked outrage among Palestinians, and came in stark contrast to the positions of groups like B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch.

A report released by Human Rights Watch days in January documented “numerous statements” made by senior Israeli politicians and religious figures “calling on police and soldiers to shoot to kill suspected attackers, irrespective of whether lethal force is actually strictly necessary to protect life.”

HRW noted that Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy has received widespread support among Israeli citizens, citing a 2016 poll by the Israel Democracy Institute which found that 47 percent of Jewish Israelis supported the sentiment that “any Palestinian who carries out a terror attack against Jews should be killed on the spot, even if he has been captured and clearly does not pose a threat.”
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