An Israeli security guard has shot dead a 13-year-old Palestinian girl during an alleged stabbing attempt outside the Almon settlement in the occupied West Bank, situated near Jerusalem.
Ruqqayah Eid Abu Eid died on the scene, becoming one of at least 29 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the last four months, according to Defence for Children International (DCI) - Palestine.
Luba al-Samri, spokeswoman for the Israeli police, told local media that Abu Eid had been in an argument with her parents before leaving home with the intention of carrying out a stabbing attack.
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Abu Eid's father arrived on the scene later and was arrested and taken in for questioning at a nearby Israeli settlement, Samri added.
Speaking to Arabic-language media, the child's mother cast doubt on the claim that she tried to stab the security guard.
There have been conflicting reports over whether Ruqayyah in fact argued with her parents before leaving home, as the Israeli spokeswoman claimed.
Protests against Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip boiled over into violence in recent months.
Since October 1, Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 162 Palestinians, including bystanders, unarmed demonstrators and attackers.
At least 25 Israelis have been killed in stabbing or shooting incidents carried out by Palestinians.
Palestinian, Israeli and international rights groups have decried Israel for using excessive force and, in several cases, fatally shooting assailants who they contend could have been arrested.
Referring to the uptick in fatal incidents involving children, Brad Parker, an attorney for DCI-Palestine, said that "some of the incidents may amount to extrajudicial killings".
"International law requires that intentional lethal force only be used when absolutely unavoidable to protect life, and only when lesser means would be insufficient to apprehend a criminal suspect," Parker told Al Jazeera.
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He said that the killings come at a time when Palestinian children are enduring "policies and practices that contravene international law".
Among those measures are "intentional lethal force" and administrative detention, a practice in which Israel imprisons Palestinians on "secret evidence" without charge or trial.
"These measures combined with systemic impunity are amplifying an already-dire situation for Palestinian children."
A report published last month by the Ramallah-based Al-Haq rights group concluded that "the deliberate targeting of Palestinian children has become a notable feature of the Israeli occupation".
Upwards of half-a-million Israelis live in more than 150 Jewish-only settlements across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Residing in heavily-guarded communities, settlers are protected by both Israeli security forces and private security guards.
Tahseen Elayyan, a researcher at Al-Haq, said that incidents in which private security guards use violence against Palestinians are not uncommon.
"In many cases, the killings have been carried out by these guards," he told Al Jazeera.
"The problem is that they are not part of the police or the army. This makes it even more difficult in terms of accountability."
Elayyan said that settlement security guards are "part of the infrastructure of the occupation" and that they "actively aid practices that are illegal under international law".
Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_
Source: Al Jazeera