A hospitalised Palestinian teen has said he was shot twice in his thighs by Israeli soldiers while he was handcuffed and blindfolded – the latest in what a leading rights group portrayed as a series of unjustified shootings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers.
Israel‘s military said on Monday it was investigating last week’s incident, which it said took place as young Palestinians were throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.
Osama Hajahjeh, 16, said he was trying to run from soldiers when he was shot on Thursday. He said the incident began after a funeral for a school teacher in his village of Tuqu, who had been hit by a car driven by an Israeli while walking at a busy intersection.
Hajahjeh said school was let out early for students to attend the funeral. After the burial, he said he was tackled by a soldier who jumped out of an olive grove and forced him to the ground. He said his hands were cuffed and his eyes covered with a cloth blindfold.
“They shot me the first time while I was trying to change my sitting position because they sat me on thorns,” Hajahjeh told AFP news agency by phone from a hospital in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem.
According to the teenager, he was hit in the right thigh the first time.
“I started walking towards the villagers asking for help,” he added, then the soldiers “shot me again and hit my left thigh.”
He said that he had two operations and was in a stable condition.
Hajahjeh said he was uninvolved in stone-throwing and had been swept up in the soldiers’ pursuit of others.
An image captured by a local photographer shows soldiers appearing to pursue a fleeing Hajahjeh with his eyes covered and hands tied behind his back.
The shooting set off a chaotic scene. Soldiers and Palestinians shouted at each other as the teen lay on the ground. One soldier took off the teen’s belt and used it as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
Amateur video shows a masked soldier screaming and pointing a pistol at a group of anguished Palestinians as the teen lies on the ground. Later, a soldier and two Palestinian men then carry away the teen to medical care.
‘Reckless use of lethal fire’
In a statement, the military said the teen had been arrested after participating in “massive stone throwing” at Israeli forces.
“The detainee was held at a nearby spot and began running away from the force. The soldiers chased him, during which they fired toward his lower abdomen,” it said.
The statement did not say anything about him being blindfolded or cuffed, but said the military offered medical treatment after the shooting and was investigating the event.
Hajahjeh’s father, Ali, said he was thankful a soldier gave his son medical care. But he said his son never should have been shot, to begin with.
“Only a sick person would shoot a blindfolded boy,” he said.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the incident was the latest in a series of what it called unjustified shootings on Palestinian teens and young men.
It says four Palestinians in their late teens or early twenties have been killed in the occupied West Bank since early March.
The army has challenged the Palestinian witness accounts, but also frequently announces investigations into disputed cases.
B’Tselem has long criticised military investigations, saying they rarely result in punishments and alleging they’re used to whitewash abuses by troops.
“Like the previous four cases we investigated, this is an example of Israel’s reckless use of lethal fire, and the fact that the human lives of Palestinians count very little in the eyes of the army,” said Roy Yellin, a spokesman for the group.