Israeli troops have shot and killed a 13-year-old Palestinian boy during clashes in Bethlehem as the most serious confrontations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in a decade continued unabated.
The boy, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, was apparently killed by a Ruger rifle, a controversial .22-calibre weapon originally designed as a small game hunting rifle that human rights groups charge is now being deployed by the military in the West Bank as a crowd control weapon. The army says it is used only against “main instigators” of violence.
In a separate incident overnight, an 18-year-old Palestinian was killed during clashes near the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem. Nimr Hamad, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said yesterday that the Palestinian Authority is not interested in a third intifada. But there were concerns that more fatalities could fuel further clashes that could be hard for Mr Abbas to control.
“He is trying to contain it but he’s been weakened by the Israelis and the question is not his intention but rather his capability,” said Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister.
A total of 105 Palestinians were wounded Sunday and yesterday by live fire or rubber-coated bullets across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. One soldier was lightly injured in the West Bank and a number of police suffered light injuries in East Jerusalem, Israeli security officials said.
The round of violence began on Thursday night when two Israeli settlers were shot dead in the northern West Bank. On Saturday, two Israelis were stabbed to death separately in Jerusalem’s Old City, prompting Israel to order an unprecedented two-day closure of the area to Palestinians.
The violence comes amid high tensions over what Palestinians say are Israeli intentions to institute Jewish prayer at Islam’s third holiest site, Haram al-Sharif, which Jews revere as the site of the biblical temples. Israel denies this and accuses the Palestinian leadership of “incitement”.
In Bethlehem, 13-year-old Abdullah was shot in the heart by an Israeli army sniper during clashes, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported. An army spokeswoman said 50 Palestinian rioters had thrown rocks at Israeli troops adjacent. “Forces operated to disperse the riot, calling on the crowd to halt and used riot dispersal means,” the spokeswoman said. “Upon continued aggression the force responded with .22-calibre rounds towards a main instigator.”
Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for Israel’s B’tselem human rights group, said Abdullah was the fourth Palestinian to be killed by Ruger fire this year. “The army treats it as a crowd control weapon and people are dying because of that. It’s not non-lethal,” she said.
Army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said the rifle is used “generally not against stone-throwing but against Molotov cocktails and main instigators”.