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7-year-old dies in Bethlehem as Israeli soldiers pursue schoolchildren

This is a developing story, and we will keep updating it with more details as they become available.

EDIT: Fouad Suliman, a cousin of Rayan’s father, has informed us an autopsy is underway.

7.05pm: Confrontations have erupted between local youth in Taqu’ and Israeli forces following Rayan Suliman’s death.

Jerusalem24 – The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced the death of 7-year-old Rayan Yasser Suliman this afternoon after resuscitation attempts failed at Beit Jala governmental hospital in Bethlehem.

The exact circumstances surrounding the death of Rayan, who was reportedly in good health, remain unclear for the time being. Early reports, including by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, that he had fallen from a height, are contradicted both by the child’s father, and the father’s cousin who spoke to Jerusalem24.

According to eyewitnesses and videos distributed on social media, a number of schoolchildren threw stones at Israeli soldiers stationed around 25 meters away from them and close to the schools, in the town of Taqu’ east of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. After the children stopped throwing stones and ran away, Israeli soldiers started walking in the direction the schoolchildren had run.

Yasser Suliman, Rayan’s father, said in an interview that Rayan was already home when Israeli soldiers came in pursuit of his two older brothers who were on their way back from school.

“My nephews and the neighbor’s kids tried to run away from them too and hid in the neighbor’s house,” Suliman added. “They [the soldiers] tried to enter our house and I stopped them. So they went to check for CCTV cameras, then they came back.”

According to Suliman’s testimony, “Rayan was terrified when he realized they came back… He ran to the backdoor. There was a third soldier I didn’t know of, and he went after Rayan. When I went after them, Rayan was already on the ground.”

Yasser Suliman, the father of 7-year-old Rayan, in front of the Beit Jala governmental hospital on September 29, 2022. [Photo credit: Samer Abu Mufareh]
Suliman says Israeli soldiers tried to stop him when he went to rush to bring his son to the hospital. “I took Rayan to a car with my cousin, he was already dead… They [Israeli soldiers] saw what was happening, they tried to stop us but we didn’t stop. One soldier pointed the gun at me and said ‘You were hiding the kids!’”

Fouad Suliman, a cousin of Rayan’s father, told Jerusalem24: “Israeli soldiers surrounded the house and tried to arrest Rayan’s two older brothers, which coincided with Rayan entering the house through the backdoor. He was surprised by the hysterical situation in that moment, he was terrified and lost consciousness.”

It is unclear whether Rayan was home or on his way in through the backdoor when the Israeli soldier pursued him all the way to the back of the house. However, the father said the soldier was standing next to Rayan when he saw his son lying on the ground.

A funeral procession for the child is set to take place tomorrow afternoon according to a statement published by the Taqu’ Municipality.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 5+ years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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