RAMALLAH, West Bank – Israeli soldiers fatally shot a young Palestinian man on a West Bank road Wednesday, and a dispute immediately arose about the circumstances of the confrontation.
The Israel Defense Forces said the man, identified by Palestinians as Muhammad Mubarak, 20, had opened fire at civilian vehicles and at an army post. Palestinians said Mubarak, who was from the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, had no weapons and was only carrying a stick to direct traffic on a road during construction.
A Palestinian witness, Yasser Khalil of Ramallah, said Mubarak was standing in the middle of a road north of Ramallah, wearing an orange construction vest and directing traffic, when soldiers ordered him to remove the vest and then shot him.
The Israel Defense Forces said a man, whom they described as a terrorist but did not identify as Mubarak, opened fire in the direction of civilian vehicles near the settlement of Ofra, near the West Bank village of Yabroud. He then allegedly shot at a nearby IDF post.
No one was injured, although Israeli news media said the post was hit by 12 bullets. The army released a photograph of a weapon it said was recovered from the scene.
“IDF soldiers acted swiftly and professionally in order to prevent casualties," said a statement from an army spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. "We will continue to stand guard and protect Israeli civilians from terrorist acts such as this one.”
Lerner tweeted that the shooter had fired 17 rounds.
Palestinians at the scene said soldiers left the body on the road for about an hour and prevented anyone, including Palestinian medics, from approaching it.
After an ambulance crew was able to reach the body, soldiers prevented the vehicle from leaving for another hour, the witnesses said.
Soldiers also reportedly fired stun grenades at people who argued with them about gaining access to the body.
After news of Mubarak's death spread, Palestinians attempted to shut down Ramallah shops in anger and mourning. When Palestinian police intervened to keep the shops open, the protesters threw rocks at the police, prompting them to shoot in the air.
Mubarak is the second Palestinian from the area to be killed by Israeli soldiers in the last two months. Soldiers killed 27 Palestinians in the West Bank last year, according to statistics provided by United Nations agencies operating in the Palestinian territories.
Mubarak's father, Mahmoud, said his son had done nothing to justify his death.
"This is murder in cold blood," he said at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, where his son's body had been taken after the shooting.
Abukhater is a special correspondent. Batsheva Sobelman in The Times' Jerusalem bureau contributed to this report.