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US urges IDF to re-evaluate use of deadly force after Palestinian toddler killed

State Department's Office of Palestinian Affairs offers condolences to family of Mohammed Tamimi, calls on Israelis, Palestinians 'to take responsible actions to end conflict'

Mourners carry the body of 2.5-year-old Mohammed Haitham al-Tamimi during his funeral in the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, June 6, 2023. [AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP]

The US on Tuesday urged Israel to probe its use of deadly force during military operations among civilians, a day after a two-year-old Palestinian boy died as a result of being mistakenly shot by Israeli troops during a West Bank gunfire exchange last week.


“We express our condolences to the family of Mohammed Tamimi. We urge Israel to evaluate all use of deadly force that involves civilian casualties and we call on Israeli and Palestinian leadership to take responsible actions to end the conflict,” the US Office of Palestinian Affairs said in a statement.


Last Thursday, two-and-a-half-year-old Tamimi and his father were hit by gunshots as Israeli soldiers returned fire at Palestinian gunmen who had shot toward them at the settlement of Neve Tzuf. The father, Haitham Tamimi, was taken by Palestinian medics to a hospital in Ramallah, and the toddler was rushed to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan by a military helicopter in critical condition. He died of his wounds on Monday.


The Israel Defense Forces said the killing was an accident and that the incident was being investigated.


In a press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said: “It’s our understanding that the IDF is investigating the incident, and broadly speaking, we urge investigations into any operations that result in civilian casualties.”


A similar call was issued by the US last year following the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an IDF raid of the West Bank in May 2022. Then, the State Department called on Israel to consider reforming its rules of engagement as a way of providing accountability for her death. But the comments sparked a furious Israeli backlash, including from then-prime minister Yair Lapid, who fumed over the attempt to “dictate” Israel’s policies.

File: Palestinians visit the site where veteran Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed, in the West Bank city of Jenin, May 18, 2022. [AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File]

Following the pushback, the State Department appeared to backtrack from its initial demand and resorted to more vague demands about the need for accountability.


Following the shooting last week, the IDF said in a statement that the father and son were likely hit by mistake, adding that it “regrets harm to [noncombatants] and works to prevent such incidents.”


“The incident is being investigated in depth,” the military told the Times of Israel in response to a query on Monday. “At the end of the inquiry and taking into account its findings, a decision will be made regarding the opening of a probe.”


Tamimi’s mother, Marwa, 32, told AFP during the funeral that soldiers had fired on her husband while he was in the car with their son. She said he had gone out to move his car because he feared it would be damaged by nearby Israeli soldiers.


“My husband started the car and my son was next to him, and the shots were fired at him when he turned on the car’s lights,” she said. “They [Israeli soldiers] fired at them for a while, and they could not get out of the car… so I hid inside [the house].”

Mohammed Tamimi (left), who was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire in the West Bank on June 1, 2023. (Right) the scene of the incident near the settlement of Neve Tzuf. [Social media; Medabrim Tikshoret]

The army’s preliminary investigation into the incident has not yet been completed. An inquiry into troops’ conduct has not yet been submitted to the Military Prosecutor’s Office for review, though prosecution of soldiers for targeting Palestinians is rare, particularly when the incident takes place during an operation.


Marwa Tamimi said she had no faith in the Israeli army’s investigation. “I want an international trial. Enough is enough. Every time we hear of a child who is martyred, a whole family is martyred,” she said.


Senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh on Monday night expressed anger in a tweet. “He [Tamimi] died by the bullets of Israeli occupation soldiers!!! What will the occupation authorities say about him? Are they going to call him a terrorist?? Is he endangering the lives of their soldiers?”


Additional condemnations were issued by the United Nations and the European Union.


After Tamimi’s funeral on Tuesday, clashes erupted with Israeli soldiers in which several Palestinians were reportedly injured.


Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been elevated for the past year, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank in the wake of a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.


Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted troops carrying out arrest raids, military posts, Israeli settlements and civilians on roads.


The string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank has killed 20 people since the start of this year and left several more seriously hurt.


At least 115 West Bank Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year — most of them during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians or were killed under more questionable circumstances.


Emanuel Fabian and Agencies contributed to this report.

 

(c) 2023, The Times of Israel

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