Israel says Palestinian toddler killed ‘unintentionally’

The two-year-old boy’s father called Israel’s initial investigation into his son’s killing a ‘cover-up’.

Mourners carry the body of three-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammad al-Tamimi who died of his wounds after being shot by Israeli forces
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian toddler Mohammed al-Tamimi, who died of his wounds after being shot by Israeli forces [File: Mohammed Torokman/Reuters]

Seven-year-old Osama wakes up every night with nightmares about his younger brother being killed at the hands of Israeli forces earlier this month, a killing Israeli forces now say was “a mistake”.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that the “unintentional” death of two-year-old Mohammed al-Tamimi occurred after a soldier wrongly assumed the Palestinian toddler and his father were gunmen fleeing after firing towards the illegally occupied West Bank settlement of Neve Tzu.

“During the search, he spotted a suspicious vehicle and fired several times into the air in violation of orders,” the Israeli army said in a statement after an initial investigation.

“Simultaneously, a soldier stationed at a guard post … identified two figures getting into a vehicle … thought they were the terrorists fleeing the scene and that they were firing at him from the vehicle. After receiving permission from his commander, the soldier fired several bullets toward the vehicle,” the statement continued.

The statement went on to say that the only action that would be taken was reprimanding the soldier who had fired into the air “in violation of orders” and that the army would “continue to learn and improve”.

On the way to a birthday party

Mohammed’s father, Haitham al-Tamimi, said that on June 2, the day of the incident, he was taking his son to a niece’s birthday party when the bullets from Israeli forces rained down on them.

His mother, Marwa al-Tamimi, was nearby and heard the sounds of gunshots.

“I ran outside to see what was going on,” Marwa previously told Al Jazeera.

“My husband was screaming during the continued shooting while driving, saying, ‘Hamoudi, Hamoudi’ [referring to his little son],” the distraught mother added.

Haitham was also injured in the incident and taken to a hospital in Ramallah, while his son was ferried to Israel’s Sheba hospital by helicopter where he died of his injuries five days later.

The family is still in shock about the death of Mohammed, with Haitham calling Israel’s initial investigation into it a “cover-up”.

“Of course, we were not expecting justice, but this report feels to us like a crime on top of the original crime,” he said.

“This is all they have to say when my son is killed in cold blood? When his life was cut off before I could discover what kind of person he’d become.”

Hundreds of Palestinian mourners gathered in Ramallah last week to bury the toddler.

If the Israeli military decides to open a criminal investigation, the soldiers involved may face consequences.

The Palestinian foreign ministry is demanding accountability for the death, deeming the incident a crime.

Tensions in the West Bank are high as Israel has been expanding its near-nightly military raids in the occupied territory under its most right-wing government yet.

Since the start of 2023, Israeli forces have killed at least 158 Palestinians, including 26 children, according to the Wafa news agency.

The death toll also includes 36 Palestinians killed by the Israeli army during a four-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip from May 9 to 13.

More than 700,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 War.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies