A 13-year-old Palestinian boy was deliberately shot dead by an Israeli soldier without any provocation, say two British human rights volunteers who witnessed the incident.
An Israeli army spokesman confirmed last night that an inquiry had been launched.
"I was with three other international volunteers in a street in Nablus on Sunday
with Baha Albahsh, who often tags along with us," said one of the witnesses, who
gave his first name as Al. "There had been some stone-throwing at tanks and armored
personnel carriers which enforce the curfew. It happens frequently and our practice
is to stand at the side to observe. We always make sure the Israelis see us, and
we don't stand with the kids as it can encourage them."
He said the incident appeared to be over and people had dispersed when an armored
personnel carrier stopped nearby. "I heard a single shot, and Baha was lying on
the ground, his eyes glazed and blood starting to come out of his mouth. It was
clear he had no chance. An ambulance came within two minutes and he died in it.
A high-velocity bullet had destroyed his left lung."
Al, who declined to give his surname because of the problems he says volunteers face at the airport when they leave Israel, has been working in Nablus for about six weeks.
"This is the worst thing I've seen in my time here. Actually, it's the worst thing I've seen in my life. There was no way Baha could have been a threat to a soldier 120 yards away with a flak jacket and a helmet and sitting in an APC. He had nothing in his hands and even if he'd had a stone he could not have thrown it effectively from that distance. I went back today and measured the distance exactly. The shot was not a ricochet. As far as I'm concerned, these people are child-killers, whether or not they were aiming at the boy. There was no reason to shoot."
Another of the four volunteers, Ewa Jasiewics, 24, from London, said: "An armored
personnel carrier came and stopped on the left of the street. A soldier popped
up from inside. I saw him with his rifle and he aimed at some kids on the street.
There was no stone-throwing or shooting going on at the time."
She said that in a month spent with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip she had often seen soldiers train gunsights on people without further incident. "This time was different. This soldier fired. It wasn't accidental. The soldiers decided to kill him."
An Israeli spokesman said that the army was trying to establish what happened: "The first assessment was that an army patrol saw a child lighting a firebomb which then set him on fire. But until we can have better information I cannot comment."
A doctor at Rafidia hospital in Nablus said the teenager was killed by a bullet which entered through the shoulder and penetrated his chest.
Nablus suffered the worst destruction of any West Bank city during the Israeli army's re-occupation this spring, and it has been under almost constant curfew since June 21: children are unable to attend school and shops are shut.
The International Solidarity
Movement brings volunteers to live and work among Palestinians to try to act
as a restraint on Israeli forces - even providing a human shield for Palestinians.
Volunteers are often detained and deported.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002