Badir's funeral was attended by thousands of people. Photo by Emily Mulder.
Israeli military forces shot 13-year-old Bahaa Samir Badir in the chest from close range Thursday night.
According to eyewitness, Ahmad (name changed for security reasons) the confrontation began after the Israeli army raided Beit Laqiya, a village on the outskirts of Ramallah. A group of boys tried block the road in an attempt to prevent the army jeeps from exiting the village.
In response to stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by the group, Israeli soldiers reportedly used sound bombs and tear gas, followed by live fire.
As Badir and a group of friends walked home from an after school game of football, they cut onto the main road where the clashes were occurring.
“He was going home…when he got on the main street, he was standing in the way of the soldiers who were going from the town,” Ahmad explained. “They started to shoot bullets at the kids from inside the car. The bullet came in his heart, and through his body. He fell on the ground. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital but they couldn’t fix his heart because he was bleeding too much.”
According to the Lebanese news site Al Akhbar English, an Israeli military spokeswoman explained that Israeli forces “encountered an illegal riot,” and that “while they were exiting the village, rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at the forces.” As the Molotov cocktails presented a higher level of danger, she claimed that the 13-year-old boy thus posed a serious threat to the lives of the armed soldiers.
Badir’s death brings the total number of child fatalities resulting from the Israeli military and settler presence in the West Bank to 13 since the start of 2014, according to DCI-Palestine, a non-governmental child’s rights and advocacy organization.
A community being watched
Residents of Beit Laqiya believe the only reason the Israeli army comes into their village is to arrest and intimidate.
Beit Laqiya youth frequently clash with the Israeli army during these raids.
Ahmad explained that during clashes, “Boys throw stones, the soldiers use live fire, and there is always one Israeli up in a high point, on a building or in a tree, taking photos of the boys throwing stones.”
Ahmad believes the Israeli army uses the photos to identify boys throwing stones in order to arrest them at a later time.
Ahmad’s brother runs a shop in an area where clashes between the Israeli army and Beit Laqiya youth are common. After repeated nights of the Israeli troops storming his home, demanding video recorded on his security cameras, his brother began erasing the videos, out of fear they would be used to arrest specific individuals.
Ex-Israeli soldiers have described night raids such as these as a “demonstration of presence,” aimed to instill fear in the Palestinian population. Night raids by the Israeli army are commonplace in towns across the West Bank, despite the fact that many of these towns are in Area A, under full jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
Badir’s mother watches her son’s body carried away after saying goodbye. Badir was survived by his parents and 7 siblings, including a twin brother. Photo by Emily Mulder.
A culture of impunity
Bader’s death is now under military investigation. According to Ma'an News Agency, his death is one of 42 Palestinian deaths resulting from Israeli military and settler presence in the West Bank. This number rose to 43 on Sunday after a 5-year-old girl was run over and killed by a settler’s vehicle.
Violent treatment and fatalities of Palestinians usually disappear through the doors of Israeli military courts. From 2000-2012, only 117 of 2,207 investigations opened by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division were indicted, about 5% of the total files opened, according to Israeli human rights group Yesh-Din.
As a result, Palestinian families do not receive justice through the only legal system available to them, while Israeli soldiers are almost never prosecuted. This low rate of accountability has built a culture of impunity among the Israeli military, leading to higher levels of avoidable deaths and injuries at the hands of Israeli soldiers.
In many military orders, such as Military Order 101, vague language is used that permits a wide range of interpretation on the part of a soldier, both allowing and legalizing excessive force by Israeli security forces and the army.
Ramzi Rabah, senior member of the DFLP, attended Badir’s funeral on Friday. In his view, “The army could have responded in a different way, for example with only tear gas…the shooting was for the purpose of killing.”
Ahmad, Badir’s friend and classmate, expressed similar frustration over the senseless killing. “The press said yesterday he was throwing burning bottles at the jeeps, and that’s the reason they killed him…He was holding his bag in his hand with his sports clothes, coming home from football… he wasn’t throwing stones. I can say just that he was an innocent boy… they had no reason.”