Palestinian-American Tawfiq Ajaq, 17, is one of 369 people killed by Israeli troops and settlers in the occupied West Bank since October, including 95 children.
Speaking at his son’s funeral on Saturday, Tawfiq’s father, Hafez Ajaq, implored Americans to “see with their own eyes” the ongoing violence in the occupied West Bank.
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“They are using our tax dollars in the US to support the weapons to kill our own children,” Hafez Ajaq said. “How many fathers and mothers have to say goodbye to their children? How many more?
“They are killer machines,” Tawfiq’s father said of Israeli forces at the funeral.
Born and raised in Gretna, Louisiana, near New Orleans, Tawfiq Ajaq’s parents brought him and his four siblings to the village of al-Mazraa Asharqiya last year so they could reconnect with Palestinian culture.
Tawfiq Hafez Tawfiq Ajaq, 17, a U.S. citizen, was killed yesterday as an Israeli settler and Israeli forces opened fire on his car in the occupied West Bank. It remains unclear whether the settler or a soldier fired the bullet that struck him in the head. https://t.co/KNXxMRoeqj pic.twitter.com/nYEULLlWCM
— Defense for Children (@DCIPalestine) January 20, 2024
On Saturday, crowds of Palestinians filled village streets, following men who held aloft a stretcher with the teen’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag and covered in flowers.
Another vigil held at the Masjid Omar mosque in Harvey, New Orleans was standing room only, according to the New Orleans news outlet NOLA.com.
Ajaq’s relative, Joe Abdel Qaki, said Tawfiq and a friend were having a barbecue in a village field when he was shot, once in the head and once in the chest.
Abdel Qaki said he arrived at the field shortly after the shooting and helped transport Tawfiq to an ambulance. He said Israeli forces briefly detained him and other Palestinians at the scene, asking for their identification cards before the men could get to Tawfiq.
He said Tawfiq died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
“Tawfiq is an American child who was chased and shot at by an Israeli settler, then Israeli forces pulled up and continued shooting,” Miranda Cleland, an advocacy officer with Defense for Children Palestine, said in a post on X.
“This is not the first time Defense for Children Palestine hasn’t been able to confirm whether a settler or soldier killed a child. One aids and abets the other,” Cleland said.
The United States Office of Palestinian Affairs called for an “urgent investigation” into Ajaq’s death in a post on X.
Devastated to hear about the killing of a 17 year old U.S. citizen, Tawfic Abdel Jabbar. We call for an urgent investigation to determine the circumstances of his death.
— U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs (@USPalAffairs) January 20, 2024
Various English spellings of the teen’s name have been used in reports.
In its daily update for Friday, the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA reported a “17-year-old Palestinian child was shot and killed” near al-Mazra’a Asharqiya village in Ramallah where Tawfiq Ajaq lived.
“At the time of the incident, Israeli forces and settlers shot live ammunition towards a group of Palestinians who were reportedly throwing stones at Israeli vehicles driving on Road 60 near the village,” OCHA said.
“It is not yet clear whether the boy was shot by Israeli forces or settlers,” OCHA said.
According to OCHA’s latest figures, of 358 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7, “348 were killed by Israeli forces, eight by Israeli settlers, and two by either Israeli forces or settlers”.
Israeli police said they received a report on Friday regarding a “firearm discharge, ostensibly involving an off-duty law enforcement officer, a soldier and a civilian”.
Police did not identify who fired the shot, though it said the shooting targeted people “purportedly engaged in rock-throwing activities along Highway 60″, the main north-south thoroughfare in the occupied West Bank.
The ongoing violence in the occupied West Bank comes as the death toll from Israel’s war on Gaza approaches 25,000, with thousands more missing under the rubble.