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Press briefing note on Occupied Palestinian territories

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 30 July 2019
Subject: Occupied Palestinian territories

We are very concerned by the critical condition of a nine-year-old Palestinian child, Abdul Rahman Shteiwi, after he was shot in the head by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) on 12 July, in what appears to have been an example of excessive use of force. While it has been reported that the Israeli Defense Forces have opened an internal investigation, we call on the Israeli authorities to conduct a thorough, effective, impartial and independent investigation into the incident, and to make sure that those responsible for any wrongdoing are held accountable.

The incident occurred during a weekly protest in the village of Kafr Qaddum, near Nablus. While protesters were burning tires and throwing stones at the ISF, Israeli soldiers -- after initially responding with rubber bullets and stun grenades – reportedly resorted to using live ammunition, without apparent reason to justify the move to use of lethal force.

According to several credible sources, this nine-year-old child, Abdul Rahman, was not taking an active part in the protest. He was reportedly over 100 metres away from the clashes, and manifestly did not present an imminent physical threat to the ISF.

The shot to his forehead resulted in a large hole and multiple skull fractures. Initially taken to a hospital in Nablus, he was later transferred to an Israeli hospital, where he remains alive but in a critical condition. Scans show dozens of fragments in the child’s head resulting in serious brain damage, from which he is unlikely to recover, even if he survives.

The shooting of Abdul Rahman is one of the latest in a long list of incidents in the occupied Palestinian Territory in which children and juveniles have been injured or killed in circumstances that strongly suggest excessive force was used by the ISF. 

At the Israel-Gaza fence, after 10 weeks had passed without fatalities at the demonstrations, a 22-year old man was shot and killed by live ammunition on 26 July. However, over the same period, 102 children, mostly teenagers, have been injured by live ammunition fired by the ISF at the fence.

Use of force must be exceptional, and lethal force should only be used in circumstances where there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury to security forces or other individuals, and in strict application of international human rights standards*. Once again, we urge Israel to review the rules of engagement of its security forces, and ensure they are in line with international standards, applicable in all countries.

Children must be afforded special protection. They must not be targeted, and must not be put at risk of violence nor encouraged to participate in violence.

*See the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.