Qalqilya, occupied West Bank – Although he was just 14 years old, Faris Abu Samra was “a man in every sense of the word”, his father, Sharhabeel, said.
“He was older than his age. He was my companion, my heart and the mastermind at work,” Sharhabeel told Al Jazeera on Friday, a day after Israeli forces shot his son in the head during an incursion in the occupied West Bank city of Qalqilya.
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Israel said its forces entered the city’s refugee camp to arrest a “suspected militant”, and residents said youngsters in the area threw rocks at the soldiers, who responded with gunfire.
The shooting marked the latest death amid a surge of Israeli attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Sharhabeel, a retired military trainer for the Palestinian police forces, said Faris helped him sell fruit when he was struggling financially.
The third child in a family of six, Faris insisted that he stop going to school to help his father.
“He told me, ‘I’m going to help you, and we’re going to solve all of our financial problems.’ He was a man of his word because, indeed, I realised that he was up to the responsibility,” Sharhabeel said.
The Abu Samra family lives in a small house, but with Faris’s help, they managed to purchase a plot of land nearby.
“He used to point to a particular corner of the land and say, ‘Here I’m going to build my own house one day,’” Sharhabeel recalled.
Qalqilya, where Faris was shot, is in the northwest part of the West Bank and is surrounded by Israel’s separation wall, a structure the United Nations considers illegal.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers since the beginning of this year now stands at 202. At least 37 of them were children, it said.
Officials have warned that 2023 is on track to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations began keeping track of fatalities in 2005.
‘Loved by everyone’
Fatima could not stop saying her younger brother’s name during the funeral procession, held on the same day Faris was killed.
“Faris, Faris, Faris,” the 16-year-old said as she screamed and cried.
Fatima recounted how she found out about Faris’s death. She said she initially had hope when her neighbours told her her brother was injured.
“I was at home. I grabbed my phone and went online to check if a video had been posted of the incident. At first, I saw a video with a boy on the floor covered in blood. It kept lagging because we have a weak connection,” Fatima told Al Jazeera.
“I thought to myself, ‘I hope it’s not Faris.’ I waited patiently for the video to load. … Then I saw the paramedics resuscitating Faris,” she said. “I saw it all. It was him.”
Fatima crumpled to the floor. A short time later, her mother, 37-year-old Samia Nazzal, joined her.
“Faris was out to bring us some food in the evening because we were supposed to fast,” Samia told Al Jazeera.
“He told me, ‘I want to have suhoor with you, mum,’” Samia said, referring to the predawn meal to start a fast.
فيديو من #قلقيلية، يُظهر تجمهر الأهالي في أحد الشوارع الرئيسية، فيما يُسمع صوت إطلاق الرصاص الحيّ من قبل قوات الاحتلال، والذي أسفر عن استشهاد طفل.
التفاصيل: https://t.co/kQZoyfcaau pic.twitter.com/OizmvpyQyM
— موقع عرب 48 (@arab48website) July 26, 2023
Translation: A video from Qalqilya shows families assembling in a main street where live ammunition shots are being fired by occupation forces, resulting in the death of a child.
“He said he would be back soon. But my darling Faris never came back,” she said.
“Everyone loved him. … Congratulations to him on his martyrdom.”
According to Faris’s uncle Ashraf Mutlaq, Faris had “an appetite for life” and died after he had taken his electric bike to the Qalqilya Zoo. It was near the zoo where the Israeli soldiers entered the city.
“He didn’t want to die,” Mutlaq said. “They killed him in cold blood.”
Israeli forces have regularly shot children during incursions into Palestinian towns and cities.
Last month, two-and-a-half-year-old Mohammed al-Tamimi died in a Tel Aviv hospital after being shot by Israeli forces in the village of Nabi Saleh, northwest of Ramallah in the West Bank.
Like Faris, the toddler was shot in the head with live ammunition.
Palestinian children are also routinely abused emotionally and physically when held in Israeli detention, a recent report by Save the Children found. The charity said some former child detainees reported violence of a sexual nature while many others were beaten, handcuffed and blindfolded in small cages.
It said Palestinian children are the only ones in the world to experience systematic prosecution in military courts.
Most are often held in administrative detention, Israel’s widely criticised practice of holding Palestinians on secret evidence without charge or trial.