Kufr Qaddum, occupied West Bank - Eleven-year-old Khalid Ishtawy is among more than 2,100 Palestinian children injured during direct conflict in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since the start of October, according to the United Nations.
Khaled was shot in the thigh on March 5, during what residents in the northern West Bank village of Kufr Qaddum called a peaceful protest. His face was etched with pain as his father, Fatah spokesperson and protest organiser Murad, slowly helped him into the family's living room.
"We were ambushed," Murad told Al Jazeera, one hand resting on his son's uninjured leg. "The younger kids ran ahead of us because there were no soldiers in sight."
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Murad believes his son was targeted in an attempt to scare the other children in Kufr Qaddum, noting the boy was shot at the start of the village's weekly protest, before clashes kicked off.
"Usually if we see soldiers out, we will push the kids to the back of the protest, but this time we couldn't see them, so the boys ran forward during the march. We were just chanting, and then Israeli soldiers popped up out of nowhere and started opening live fire."
Murad said Israeli forces shot two bullets at the start of the march, causing protesters to turn back and run. The second bullet caught Khalid in the thigh as he fled.
"It was not a normal turn of events," Murad said. "We have been protesting here for five years; by this point, we know the soldiers' behaviours and they know ours. This was really out of nowhere."
Asked about the incident, an Israeli army spokesperson told Al Jazeera that forces "shot at a main instigator" during a "violent riot" in the village. Volunteers with a Swedish activist group who were present during the incident, however, said they were shocked that Israeli forces began shooting live fire so early into the protest.
Khalid's doctor, Ismael Qatawy, told Al Jazeera that Khalid's thigh bone had been fully fractured by the bullet.
"There were pieces of shrapnel spread throughout the place of impact. The bullet didn't exit, and a few pieces that we couldn't remove are still embedded in the bone," Qatawy said.
A video of the incident went viral on Palestinian social media. In it, Khalid can be seen lying alone on the ground, his back to advancing Israeli soldiers as he tries to drag himself away. Mushoor Jumaa, 45, rushes to Khalid's aid, and is shot in his own thigh as he picks the boy up and runs him to safety. "It was instinct," Jumaa said later.
|Mushoor Jumaa ran to Khalid's aid after the boy was shot by Israeli forces [Abed al-Qaisi/Al Jazeera]
Murad said his son, who is at the top of his class, will heal from his physical wounds, but he is concerned about the psychological toll of the incident.
"He used to be very poised and calm. He led all the assemblies at school, and you would never see him playing with his hair and fidgeting so much," his father said.
In a report released this month by Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP), the group accused Israeli forces of "misusing crowd control weapons."
According to Israeli rights' group B'Tselem, live bullets are forbidden as a form of crowd control unless there is an immediate threat to life. However, the group has documented and condemned Israel's widespread use of live fire during clashes and in cases where such a threat was not apparent.
An Israeli army official who spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity said that when an attacker is spotted, Israeli forces "don't ask for ID" to check the age of the perpetrator before attempting to "neutralise the threat".
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A week after Khalid's injury, on March 14, 14-year-old Adi Kamal Salamah was shot in the chest with live fire during clashes in al-Mazraa al-Gharbiya village, northwest of Ramallah. The boy was taken to hospital in severe but critical condition, medics at the Palestinian Medical Complex told Al Jazeera.
An Israeli army spokesperson said the boy was shot during a "violent riot" in which "20 Palestinians hurled stones and cement blocks."
The spokesperson added that "the riot was dispersed according to standard procedures," but that forces were aware of "claims that a Palestinian was injured during the riot, and the incident is under review".
In addition to the thousands of Palestinian children injured in conflict during the past six months, DCIP reported earlier this month that more than 40 Palestinian children had been killed during the same period - most during alleged, attempted or actual attacks against Israelis. Four of the children were killed during clashes, DCIP said.
In addition, two children, aged six and 10, were killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli air strikes on March 12. According to an Israeli army spokesperson, the strikes targeted "four Hamas sites".
Amnesty International has accused Israel of carrying out "extrajudicial killings".
"They seem increasingly prone to using lethal force against anyone they perceive as posing a threat, without ensuring that the threat is real," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
Additional reporting by Abed al-Qaisi
Source: Al Jazeera