Jifna, West Bank: The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is preparing to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC), over the killing of a Palestinian teenager shot in the back during clashes between protesting youths and Israeli soldiers, and the burning deaths of a Palestinian baby and his father by Israeli colonists.
Meanwhile, another Palestinian family has been torn apart. Another Palestinian mother’s heart has been broken and another promising young life cut short at the hands of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.
But for the Israelis it’s just another statistic, business as usual and another day under their occupation.
On July 31 Laith Al Khaldi, 15, from the village of Jifna, near Ramallah, was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers firing from the slats of a tall military pillbox tower after they claimed he had thrown Molotov cocktails at the tower.
That day clashes had erupted all over the West Bank and Gaza after Israeli colonists burnt a Palestinian baby and his father to death in the village of Douma, near Nablus.
Laith and his friends had been playing pool and watching TV broadcasts of the arson attack on the baby’s family when he became enraged and called on his friends to go and protest at the nearby Atara military tower.
“He never normally took part in protests. He was a good swimmer and student, a kind, fun-loving boy who loved music, sport and spending time with his friends and family,” Laith’s mother Sanar, a nurse, told Gulf News, as tears welled up in her eyes.
Sanar showed Gulf News a collage of photos of Laith from when he was a baby to the fashionably-dressed and handsome young man he had grown into.
Laith’s two sisters and other female relatives, sitting nearby, quietly sobbed as they listened to the interview.
“It was a Friday morning and Laith’s father Fadl, who works at nearby Birzeit University, went out to buy a special breakfast at his son’s request.
That would be the last time Sanar, a gentle, quietly-spoken woman would see her son alive.
Al Khaldi’s family and friends deny Laith had thrown any Molotovs, only stones which would not have reached the soldiers metres above in their tower with only tiny gun slats open.
Even a Molotov cocktail would have done little damage to the metal, heavily fortified, military outpost and the soldiers were in no danger as the teenager was retreating when they shot him.
The bullet used to kill the happy youngster was of an unusual variety that causes maximum damage on impact, disintegrating after entering the body and causing irreversible damage to the internal organs.
“There was no need to shoot him. They could have arrested him,” said Sanar.
“Even if they felt the need to shoot him when he presented no threat to them, why didn’t they shoot him with rubber bullets or if they wanted to use live ammunition, why didn’t they shoot him in his legs and then arrest him?”
As heartbreaking as the Al Khaldi family’s story is it is not unusual.
At least 25 Palestinians have been killed this year by live ammunition fired by Israeli troops.
Four Palestinians were killed in July alone. These statistics do not include attacks by Israeli colonists.
A significant portion of those who’ve been killed have been children or teenagers, shot dead under dubious circumstances which are disputed by Palestinians and the Israeli military.
“Recent months have seen a dramatic rise in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch calibre bullets fired by the Ruger rifle,” reported Israeli rights group B’tselem earlier this year.
“The firing of this ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of protests and clashes.”
B’tselem added that it had also witnessed cases of Israeli soldiers provoking clashes in order to fire live ammunition at protesters.
Dr Sami Naghli, a doctor from Jelazon refugee camp, near Ramallah said Israeli soldiers are also using a kind of bullet which fragments on impact, causing severe trauma and damage to bones, organs and nerves, although he could not confirm if this was a 0.22 or another type.
“We’ve seen dozens of these injuries, and several deaths in Jelazon this year from these bullets,” Naghli told Gulf News.
The 0.22 inch bullets are being used despite the head of Israel’s security department in the Operations Directorate stating in 2001, during the second Intifada, that the Ruger could not be considered a non-lethal weapon and could only be used in circumstances which justified the use of live fire.
However, due to the spike in Palestinian casualties and the tension and violence currently gripping the West Bank, the Israeli military has tightened its rules of engagement fearing more casualties could provoke a mass uprising.
Israeli soldiers have recently been given strict orders that they can only open fire to kill if their lives are in actual danger. Up to that point the soldiers have been ordered to fire into the air.
After hosting the Al Khalidi family Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the first steps had been taken towards submitting Laith’s case to the International Criminal Court.
However, this is too little and too late for Laith and the other young victims.
— Mel Frykberg is a freelance journalist based in Ramallah