Doctors who treated two Palestinian youths shot dead by Israeli troops in the West Bank have refuted the army's claim that they had used rubber bullets and said the medical evidence showed that live ammunition had been fired.
The shooting of Mohammed and Osaid Qadus, both teenagers, in the village of Iraq Burin was followed yesterday by the deaths of another two youths shot by Israeli forces. The renewed violence came as it was confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet President Barack Obama in Washington tomorrow amid continued US efforts to relaunch indirect negotiations between the two sides in the conflict.
Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister yesterday condemned the four fatal shootings and called on the international community to persuade Israel to halt "a serious military escalation" which he warned "has serious risks and puts in jeopardy the Palestinian Authority's achievements of security and stability".
The two Palestinians who died yesterday – said to be in their late teens – were from Awarta near Nablus and were on village farmland overlooked by the Jewish settlement of Itamar. Villagers said they assumed the pair were working the land. The Israeli military said they had tried to stab a soldier.
The two boys killed on Saturday Mohammed Qadus and Osaid Qadus, 16 and 18 respectively, were buried yesterday in Iraq Burin, a village West of Nablus and perched on a picturesque hilltop across a valley from the Jewish settlement of Brakha. Their deaths came after a regular Saturday protest demonstration of a sort which is on the increase in the central West Bank.
One witness, Walid Jaber Qadus, 48, said there had been earlier clashes on the eastern side of the village between stone-throwing youngsters and troops who had taken over the roof of a house and fired tear gas and rubber bullets. He insisted neither boy had been throwing stones when they were fired on at the western side of the village by soldiers who had arrived in five jeeps from the direction of Nablus.
Pointing to the steel shutters of a store outside which he said Osaid Qadus had been sitting, he said: "There had been a lot of tear gas and he was just resting. When he was shot Mohammed was on the other side and he went running to him shouting 'get an ambulance' and then he was shot as well." He pointed to a trail of blood in the middle of the road, left as he and three other men carried the boys up the hill to find a Ford transit service taxi to take them to hospital. Many of the villagers belong to the same Qadus clan.
The Israeli military said on Saturday that it had opened an investigation into the shootings but also insisted that soldiers had responded with tear gas and rubber bullets to a "violent and illegal riot" and added: "Live fire was not used."
But a hospital X-ray released by the Israeli human rights agency Btselem and also shown to The Independent by doctors at Nablus's private Speciality hospital show what appears to be a conventional metal bullet lodged in the brain of Osaid Qadus, who died there of his injuries at about 3am yesterday.
Dr Ahmad Hamad, the duty resident in the hospital's accident and emergency department when the boys were brought in, said Mohammed Qadus had suffered a single shot in the chest. He said there was a small entry wound and a larger exit wound in his back.
Another doctor, Abdul Karim Hashesh, was on duty when the bodies of the youths shot yesterday arrived at Nablus's Rafidia Hospital. He said that one, Mohammed Kuarik was hit by a total of seven bullets while the other, Saleh Kuaraik, was hit by at least three. Young Palestinians burned tyres and set up roadblocks of rocks across one of the main roads into Awarta in protest at the shootings yesterday afternoon.
The deaths followed that of a Thai worker in Israel, killed by a Qassam rocket from Gaza last Thursday.
The Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee, a loose body of pro-test organisers in West Bank villages, said that: "Less-lethal ammunition, rubber-coated bullets included, can, under no circumstances, cause such injuries, even if shot from point blank."
Dr Ahmad – who also said a rubber bullet could not have caused such a wound – said Mohammed Qadus had failed to respond to cardiac massage and been pronounced dead 40 minutes after arrival.