On 19 March, Israeli forces opened fire at Yusif Sami Shawamreh, 14, as he and his friends were crossing over the annexation wall which cuts through the lands of Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa village, south of Hebron. The three boys had set out in the early morning to collect gundelia; a plant that grows in the spring time and is harvested by farmers between mid February and the end of March. Residents of Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa, like many other villagers in the western part of Hebron, have created holes in the annexation wall, which takes the form of a fence and barbed wire in that area, and which cuts through their lands.
Al-Muntaser Billah Jamal al-Dardoun – Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa – Hebron
On Wednesday 19 March, Muntaser, 17, along with his friends Zahi Shawamreh and Yusif Shawamreh, 14, set out at approximately 6:30 am to collect gundelia. They headed west towards the fence, passed through the first hole in it and then crossed an Israeli military road. As they were crossing over some metal barriers they heard three gunshots coming from a hill, which was about 80 metres away. They boys sprawled on the ground. Moments later when Yusif got up in an attempt to cross over the metal barriers and back into the village, Muntaser heard another gunshot. Yusif fell on the ground and called out for Muntaser, who moved about three metres closer, picked Yusif up and began to carry him. Meanwhile, Muntaser heard a voice ordering him to stop. When he turned around he saw six Israeli soldiers running towards them. One of the officers instructed Muntaser to place Yusif on the ground and threatened to shoot him if he did not obey.
According to Muntaser, the soldiers wore black jackets, dark blue trousers and black masks on their faces. Three of the soldiers tore Yusif’s trousers, which were soaked in blood. Within minutes four more Israeli military jeeps arrived on the scene. Some of the officers bound Muntaser and Zahi’s hands with plastic ties, blindfolded them and sat them on the ground. One of the officers beat Muntaser’s back with his rifle and pressed his knees against Muntaser’s shoulders.
Approximately half an hour later, Muntaser and Zahi had the blindfold removed and could see the soldiers carrying Yusif on a stretcher into an Israeli military ambulance. A car then arrived with Israeli detectives who screened the location, gathered samples and took pictures.
Another half an hour later, Muntaser and Zahi were blindfolded again and taken into a military jeep. Muntaser recalls that they were dropped off at an unknown location with street signs for al-Ramadin town, had their hands untied and the blindfolds removed. They were taken inside a caravan and into a room that had a wooden board and mattresses and were seated there. Ten minutes later, two soldiers entered the room and spoke to the boys in Hebrew, which they do not understand. The soldiers kicked and slapped the boys and then left.
Muntaser and Zahi sat in the room for approximately half an hour until two female soldiers arrived. They had a cell phone with the speaker on. Someone spoke to the boys in Arabic through the phone and was translating what they said to the soldiers, who recorded the boys’ testimonies. The person on the phone questioned them as to why they had been so close to the fence and accused them of making the holes in the fence – an accusation the boys denied.
The boys were then taken into a green vehicle, used to transport prisoners, with their hands tied behind their backs. They were transferred to an Israeli police station west of Kiryat Arba’. There, they had their fingerprints and pictures taken before being transferred into an interrogation room together. The interrogator slapped them. Muntaser and Zahi were released at a checkpoint near al-Ramadin town at approximately 6:30 pm the same day. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9433/2014)
The Israeli ambulance transferred Yusif to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheba where he was announced dead. His body was then transferred to Hebron Governmental Hospital. According to the medical report issued there, Yusif sustained a bullet in the left side of his waist, which sunk into the hips.
According to the Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa residents, Yusif and his friends visited the same location using the same route so often that the nearby military presence is undoubtedly familiar with the routine. On previous occasions, Palestinian youths have been detained in the area for some time and had their gundelia plants confiscated before being released on the same day.
Al-Haq condemns the killing of the 14-year old boy, Yusif Shawamreh. As the Occupying Power, Israel must abide by international humanitarian law, which stipulates that protected persons are entitled in all circumstances to be humanely treated and shall be protected against all acts of violence or threats. Israeli authorities have an obligation to ensure that excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians is held punishable as a criminal offence. According to Article 3 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the use of firearms is an extreme measure and every attempt should be made to exclude their use, especially against children. Furthermore, under international human rights law, every individual has an inherent right to life, which is to be protected by law, and no one should be arbitrarily deprived of his/her life.
Al-Haq also condemns the detention of Muntaser and Zahi following the incident and the assault that they suffered at the hands of the Israeli officers. Israel must abide by its obligations under international human rights law by complying with the provisions set forth in the human rights treaties it has ratified, especially the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The torture and ill-treatment of child detainees represent grave violations of international human rights law.