US demands ‘urgent’ Israeli probe into Palestinian-American child’s death

US calls for a quick investigation into the killing of 17-year-old Tawfiq Ajaq in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians walk through the aftermath of the Israeli military raid on Nur Shams refugee camp in the West Bank
Palestinians walk through the aftermath of the Israeli military raid on Nur Shams refugee camp in the occupied West Bank [File:Majdi Mohammed/AP]

The United States has urged Israel to launch an investigation into the death of Tawfiq Ajaq, a 17-year-old Palestinian-American who Palestinian authorities say was killed by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank.

At a press briefing in Washington, DC on Monday, US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters that the US is “devastated about the killing” and is continuing “to engage closely with the Government of Israel to ascertain as much information as possible”.

“We have called for an urgent investigation to determine the circumstance of his death,” Patel said. He added that the head of the US Office of Palestinian Affairs had visited Ajaq’s family to offer condolences and would continue assisting them together with the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Ajaq was born in Gretna, Louisiana, near New Orleans, and was brought to the West Bank by his parents last year.

Ajaq’s relative, Joe Abdel Qaki, said Tawfiq and a friend were having a barbecue in a village field when he was shot.

Speaking at his son’s funeral on Saturday, Tawfiq’s father, Hafez Ajaq, said Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank were “killer machines”.

Israeli police have 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 they said the shooting targeted people “purportedly engaged in rock-throwing activities along Highway 60″, the main north-south thoroughfare in the occupied West Bank.

“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,” Miranda Cleland, an advocacy officer with Defense for Children Palestine, said in a post on X.

At least 369 people have been killed by Israeli troops and settlers in the occupied West Bank since October, including 95 children.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also noted that 2023 was the deadliest year for children in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, with 124 Palestinian and six Israeli children killed there since the start of the year.

Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative party, told Al Jazeera that the growing raids and attacks in the occupied West Bank are an attempt by Israel to reoccupy the territory “completely”.

“This is a clear message from [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Barghouti said. “He’s saying there’s no place anymore for any independent Palestinian authority here. He’s reoccupying the West Bank as he is trying to reoccupy Gaza.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies