Ramallah: The family of a deaf 17-year-old Palestinian boy who was killed on his birthday in Hebron has said that it will not rest until the Israeli soldier who fired the shots is brought to justice.
The soldier opened fire at Mohammad Ziad Awad Al Salaymah as he headed home carrying snacks and a cake home to celebrate his birthday last week. Six bullets hit different parts of his body.
On December 12, Mohammad celebrated his birthday with his classmates at school before returning home to attend a bigger celebration with his family. In an interview with Gulf News Emad Awad Al Sawalmah, Mohammad’s uncle, said that his nephew returned from school, performed prayers at Al Ebrahimi Mosque next to his residence, then went to the market to buy food for his birthday party.
“We were waiting for Mohammad. He was late,” said Emad. “All of a sudden, a group of youngsters from the neighbourhood knocked hysterically on the door, shouting that an Israeli soldier had shot Mohammad [at a checkpoint].”
According to relatives, Mohammad crossed the checkpoint approximately ten times a day, and the soldiers there knew that he lived in a house only 100 metres away.
“On his way home from the market, the Israeli soldier called him, and as he approached her she suddenly and without reason opened fire at Mohammad, killing him,” he said.
Occupation officials and media have however disputed this claim. Initially calling the 17-year-old a “terrorist” and his shooter the “heroine of the day”, Israeli media later reported that Mohammad had pulled a gun at the soldier, prompting her to shoot him. The occupation border police later found the gun to be a toy, according to the Jerusalem Post.
His killer, Nofar Mizrahi, 19, told Israeli media that she had no regrets about the killing.
The grieving uncle said that the soldier was known to have been a “trouble maker”, calling to Palestinian passers-by to humiliate them, make fun of them and beat them up.
“This particular soldier is known to the Palestinian residents of Al Salaymah and Al Rajabi to be the worst Israeli soldier ever recruited at any Hebron checkpoint,” Emad said.
Ziad, Mohammad’s father, was the first to reach the checkpoint, but the Israeli soldiers did not allow the father to reach his bleeding son or provide Mohammad with any medical help.
“Ziad quarrelled with the soldiers and used force to reach his son,” he said. “The soldiers at the checkpoint beat up Ziad severely and caused him serious injuries.” Al Ahli Hospital and Alia Hospital in Hebron dispatched two ambulances to rush Mohammad to a hospital, but the Israeli soldiers did not let them access the area. As a result, Mohammad bled to death.
Mohammad’s family members were waiting at the hospital expecting to receive his body, but they were shocked when several hours later the father was brought by ambulance to Al Ahli Hospital and admitted to the ICU. “The man can no longer walk,” Emad said.
The Israeli soldiers allowed the ambulances to collect Mohammad’s body at midnight after a military coordination document was secured by the Palestinian military coordination office.
Mohammad died hoping to meet his older brother Awad who was released from an Israeli prison as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal, and deported to Gaza after serving 19 years in prison. Mohammad was born while his brother was in prison, and had never met him.
Mohammad has three brothers and three sisters and is known in Palestine to be a professional wrestler and a member of the Palestinian wrestling team which represented Palestine in France, Jordan, Yaman and Iraq. He was a bronze medallist at the South East Asian championship held in Jordan.
“The Al Salaymah family will not give up Mohammad’s blood and will sue the Israeli killer in local and international courts to force her to face justice,” Emad warned.
Palestinian activists have already printed ‘Wanted’ posters of Mizrahi, whose name and picture were published by the Israeli media before it emerged that Mohammad was innocent.
“We know exactly who opened fire on Mohammad and we will never let her go unpunished,” Emad said.
“We are currently speaking to the eye witnesses who were there when the murder occurred,” he said. “We want to see what is required from us to sue this woman and the Israeli army and then we will chase this killer.”