Palestinian Boy, 10, Shot Dead As Israeli Troops Fire On Demonstration
The Israeli military said it would mount an investigation into the shooting of Ahmed Moussa, which comes just three weeks after an Israeli soldier was captured on video firing at close range a baton round at a Palestinian man who was blindfolded and cuffed.
The incidents occurred in the village of Ni'ilin, near Ramallah, where Palestinian and international protesters regularly rally to demonstrate against the barrier - which cuts the community off from its farmland and protects the Jewish settlements built illegally, according to international law, inside the West Bank.
Protests often turn violent when stone-throwing youths are confronted by Israeli soldiers firing teargas and ammunition. Scores of Palestinians and troops have been injured over the past few months.
According to witnesses, soldiers fired tear gas and live bullets at the protesters trying to scale a temporary fence, erected to stop them reaching the bulldozers used to clear land to build the barrier. Others said baton rounds had been used.
One regular demonstrator, Jonathon Pollock, said that 18 people were injured.
"We were trying to get to the barrier like we do every time. I personally saw soldiers and border policemen using live ammunition," said Pollock.
By late afternoon yesterday, most of the protesters had dispersed and the violence had subsided, although several youths remained in the area near the village entrance and continued throwing stones, according to some witnesses.
When Israeli soldiers again shot at the youths, Moussa was hit in the forehead.
Israel's military said it would conduct a "thorough examination with the forces in the region". It added the incident was "grave" and that it would consult Palestinian medical personnel.
But it also said it was also examining the possibility that Moussa was killed by Palestinian shooting.
Mohammed Nafa, one of the demonstrators, said he and others carried the boy to an ambulance, cupping his head with a baseball cap.
At a hospital in the nearby town of Ramallah, the boy's family waited at the morgue. A paramedic who had driven the body sat on stairs and wept.
"We told him not to go down [to the protests], but he wouldn't listen," the boy's aunt Khadija Moussa, told the Associated Press.
A border police officer was also wounded during the protest when a stone struck his eye.
The escalation in violence came as an Israeli commander, Lieutenant Colonel Omri Bruberg, who leads the battalion operating around Ni'ilin, was suspended for 10 days until military investigators decide whether there is enough evidence to indict him.
Bruberg is under investigation for his alleged role in the close-range shooting of a 27-year-old Palestinian man, Ashraf Abu-Rahma in the foot this month.
The incident was recorded by a 17-year-old girl from the village and shows Omri holding him by the arm while another soldier, a metre away, fires at the 27-year-old Palestinian's foot.
Abu-Rahma had been protesting at the barrier in Ni'ilin when he was later detained, blindfolded and handcuffed by the army, which then imposed a four-day curfew on the town of Ni'ilin.
The army launched its investigation into the shooting of Abu-Rahma after an Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem released the video of the incident.
It was the latest incident in which a video footage had been used to expose violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Although filmed on a privately owned camera, B'Tselem has handed out about 100 video cameras to Palestinians to film human rights abuses by the Israeli army and settlers.
Bruberg was suspended yesterday after failing his second polygraph test, conducted by the military police after he passed an earlier test conducted last week by a private institute.
The soldier who fired the gun and was held in custody says he was following Bruberg's orders. But Bruberg told military investigators he only told the soldier to shake his rifle to frighten Abu-Rahma.
B'Tselem filed a second complaint against the commander yesterday, alleging that he kicked and trod on the hands of another Palestinian demonstrator two weeks ago.
The UN's office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs says seven Palestinians and one international have been injured by rubber-coated metal bullets fired by the army during protests in Ni'ilin over the past two weeks.
© 2008 The Guardian