Monday, November 30, 2020

The death of Mohammad Salaymah on his 17th birthday

By Calum Toogood - December 25, 2012
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Mohammed Salaymah] [Israeli army] [live ammunition] [Hebron]

The death of Mohammed Salaymah on Wednesday 12th December 2012 has become yet another eye-opener to the increasing use of live ammunition within the West Bank by the occupying forces.

Due to a lack of eyewitnesses and the inconsistency of the soldier in question’s testimony, there is much debate as to the justification for the use of live fire to quell Salaymah.
The event occurred on the following day after Israel had announced a modification in its policy surrounding the use of live fire against Palestinians. The announcement stated that soldiers would be given more freedom, by making their own personal evaluation based upon the particular situation they face, and the amount of danger they perceive themselves or their colleagues to be in.
The shooting of Mohammad Salaymah occurred on the evening of his 17th birthday. According to his mother, Salaymah was on his way to get a birthday cake so he could celebrate at home with his sisters. It was during this trip that he was apprehended at the checkpoint and shot.
Several contradictory testimonies from the Israeli border police regarding the murder of Salaymah have been issued to the public. The statement released after the occurrence by the border police spokesperson stated that the officers present requested to check Salaymah’s ID. When they approached to check it, he grabbed a toy gun—which the border police mistook for a real gun— and pointed it at the head of one of them.
Neighbours near the checkpoint heard six shots. It was later confirmed that Salaymah was shot twice; once in the right side of the chest and the other through his side. The latter is thought to have passed through his heart and out through his back.
Friends, family and outside speculators can see no reason why Mohammad would have approached the border police with aggressive intent on his birthday. 
The gun that Salaymah was said to possess was soon revealed to be a cigarette lighter in the shape of a gun. It has been confirmed that this object was present at the scene by witnesses who arrived shortly after.
The female officer who is responsible for the shooting, Nofar Mizrahi, also released statements to the media, which proved to be inconsistent with each other and with surveillance footage released the following week.
What the edited footage does show is Salaymah approaching the checkpoint and having an object taken from him, possibly his ID. After what appears to be a section missing from the video, Salaymah is shown talking with another officer before ensuing to fight with him.
They move throughout the area in front of the checkpoint. The female officer then appears from the checkpoint and fires at Salaymah.
In Mizrahi’s testimony she states that Salaymah had the other border officer by the neck and the gun pressed against his temple. At the point of shooting Salaymah does not appear to be in contact with any officer.
At no point in the video can the toy gun be seen.
One witness, refusing to give their name, claimed that there was a moment that the toy gun was in the hands of the border police. They say that Mohammad began fighting with the officer after being refused it handed back to him. It was during this fight that Mohammad was shot.
According to Hisham Sharabati, who conducted an investigation with human rights organization Al Haq, no other eyewitnesses have come forward.
“People usually are worried…they don’t want to put themselves in trouble testifying against the border police” Sharabati told the Palestine Monitor. “They are the ones living in such areas, they are afraid of acts of daily revenge against them. They need to pass [the checkpoints] all the time.”
Due to the lack of witnesses to credit what has already been said, no definite conclusion about why Salaymah was shot and killed can be reached.
Friends, family and outside speculators can see no reason why Mohammad would have approached the border police with aggressive intent on his birthday. Earlier images on the same day show Mohammad having a party at school with his friends.
According to those who knew Mohammad, he was a highly positive person. He was a circus performer and part of a wrestling team.
Unfortunately, the practice of Israeli army soldiers resorting to the use of live fire on Palestinian civilians is not a novel occurrence. Perhaps one of the most harrowing of these incidents happened in Gaza in 2004. Iman Al-Hams, 13, was coming home from school and as she reached the checkpoint, had 15 bullets fired into her body after soldiers suspected her bag contained explosives.
Iman’s bag contained only textbooks. At the time she was shot, she was no longer carrying the bag. The case went to court and the soldier was found not guilty. He received NIS 80,000 in compensation and was promoted to the rank of Major.
Despite the high level of discrepancy surrounding the shooting of Mohammad Salaymah, the border officer responsible for his death was announced by Israel’s daily newspaper Yedioth as “Heroine of the day.” She has also been honoured by different officers. A thorough military investigation, which many Palestinians consider as useless and anything but impartial, is yet to be carried out.

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