Video prompts calls for investigation of Palestinian teens' deaths

Video prompts calls for investigation of Palestinian teens' deaths
Members of the Palestinian national security forces carry the body of Nadim Nowarra, who was killed in a clash with Israeli troops on May 15, during a funeral the following day in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Majdi Mohammed / Associated Press)

The U.S. government and the United Nations urged Israel to investigate the fatal shooting of two Palestinian teens last week after footage emerged suggesting the youths posed no immediate threat to troops.

The incident occurred near the West Bank town of Ramallah on May 15, during Palestinian protests marking the day of Nakba, or catastrophe, that commemorates Palestinian displacement in the war following Israel's establishment in 1948.


Muhammad abu Daher, 15, and Nadim Nowarra, 17, were among a group throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers outside the Ofer military prison facility near Ramallah. According to Palestinian medical sources, the two were shot dead with live ammunition.

After the incident, Israel's army said troops had fired rubber bullets to disperse a "violent riot" and that the military was examining the Palestinian reports. Military sources denied use of live fire.

But videos circulated by rights organizations Tuesday purporting to show the shootings raise questions about the incident.

Published by the Palestinian branch of Defense for Children International and the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, or B'Tselem, the videos appear to show the boys were unarmed and not engaged in confrontation with soldiers or close to them when shot.

The footage came from privately owned security cameras placed atop a Palestinian business in Bitunya, near the site of the protests. Proprietor Fakher Zayyad gave the raw footage to both organizations.

On Wednesday, Zayyad told Israeli radio he had witnessed the incident and that the clashes had subsided about 10 minutes before the fatal shootings, after Israeli troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators.

According to Zayyad, the teens were about 200 yards from troops when shot.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said soldiers had acted appropriately "in a situation where their lives were in danger." He said he hadn't seen the videos in question but that he had "seen lots of films that were edited" deliberately.

In addition to the army investigation, military officials told media they have started a military police investigation.

Washington urged Israel to conduct a thorough probe of the incident. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki extended condolences to the families of the slain teens and called on Israel to hold a "prompt and transparent investigation."

United Nations officials issued a similar call.

In a statement to media Tuesday, Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi condemned the shooting as a "deliberate execution."

Separately, another contested killing was under discussion Wednesday: that of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003. Her family is asking the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn a 2012 ruling declaring Corrie's death an accident for which Israel was not responsible.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.