Jerusalem24 – Israeli soldiers shot and killed 16-year-old Mustafa Amer Ali Sabbah during confrontations between unarmed Palestinian youth and the Israeli army in the village of Tuqu’ east of Bethlehem on Friday afternoon.
Mustafa was shot in the heart with live ammunition, according to Defence for Children International–Palestine (DCIP), and declared dead at Beit Jala Governmental Hospital.
Mustafa’s father told Quds News Network his son had already died when he arrived at the hospital. “I only wish I could have said goodbye. He was my whole life. I have only him.”
The Israeli military closed all the roads leading to the town following the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s announcement of Mustafa’s death, and renewed confrontations broke out.
Israeli forces and settlers have now shot and killed 102 Palestinians including 20 children in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem in 2023.
“War crimes with no consequence”
All of the 20 children killed by Israeli fire in 2023 were shot during confrontations between the army and unarmed, stone-throwing Palestinian youths and children, or during daytime military invasions of West Bank cities that left a high number of casualties.
Nearly all were targeted with live ammunition in the upper body or head, which the Ministry of Health has said denotes “an intent to shoot-to-kill“, while one was crushed by a military vehicle.
Video footage from the scene taken before Mustafa’s killing shows him unarmed, throwing stones, with no soldiers in visible proximity. Separate footage shows Palestinian youths crouching behind a wall, and sporadically throwing stones towards a military vehicle and soldiers before running from tear gas or live shots being fired.
Speaking of the similar killing of 17-year-old Mohammad Awaidat-Balhan earlier this month, DCIP accountability program director Ayed Abu Eqtaish stated: “Unlawful killings of Palestinian children have become the norm as Israeli forces become increasingly empowered to use intentional lethal force in situations that are not justified. In short, these are war crimes with no consequence.”
A town in mourning
Mustafa is the second child from the small town to have died at the hands of the Israeli military in just over half a year.
On 29 September 2022, previously healthy 6-year-old Rayyan Yasser Suliman went into cardiac arrest after being pursued by Israeli soldiers. The circumstances of his death are still under investigation.
The Tuqu’ community was particularly affected by Rayyan’s death, with residents cancelling weddings and festive occasions for weeks after the child’s funeral, which was attended en masse.
On Saturday, the town gathered once again to support Mustafa’s family during the teenager’s funeral.
A full strike was declared in Tuqu’ and the wider Bethlehem governorate on Saturday.Further confrontations broke out between local youth and the army immediately following the news of Mustafa’s death on Friday afternoon.
The town has been the site of frequent confrontations since the death of 6-year-old Rayyan.
Tuqu’ is surrounded by five illegal Israeli settlements, three to the north and two to the south, and is subject to frequent attacks by Israeli settlers since a road was built to connect the settlements which runs through the village and near the village schools.
The settlements around Tuqu’ are part of the so-called “E2” settlement project, nicknamed this way for its resemblance to E1, “inasmuch as a settlement there would severely dismember Palestinian territorial contiguity and thereby threaten the very possibility of a two-state solution”, according to Peace Now.