A 19-year-old Palestinian man was critically wounded on Monday during clashes between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and rioters north of Ramallah, when he was apparently hit by a tear gas canister fired by soldiers.
Mohammed Tasyir Abu Awad suffered a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage, Palestinian sources said.
Ihab Abu Awad, a cousin of the victim who was at the scene, told Haaretz that his brother was targeted deliberately. He said he saw a soldier crouch and fire the gas canister from a distance of 30 meters.
Asked by Haaretz whether Monday's victim had been hurt as a result of direct fire, the IDF spokesman said the investigation had not yet been completed. The incident began when 15 Palestinian youths began throwing stones at the IDF outpost where soldiers were standing guard at the Atara checkpoint on Monday morning.
The soldiers, from the Home Front Command's Kedem battalion, feared that the riot would spread and pose a threat to vehicles traveling on the nearby road. As a result, the soldiers left the guard post and moved toward the rioters, who were only a few meters away, the army said.
The soldiers used tear gas in an effort to disperse the Palestinians.
During their debriefing, soldiers at the scene said the riot dispersed and that they hadn't seen anyone wounded in the area.
News of the victim came later from the Binyamin Brigade's district coordinating office.
According to Ihab Abu Awad, the two cousins and other family members came to the site to protest the fact that no one has been prosecuted for a road accident two years ago in the area, in which an IDF vehicle hit a car, killing Abu Awad's uncle and four other members of the family.
"No one ever contacted the family or gave us any accounting of what happened," he said.
Describing Monday's incident, he said: "When we got there we saw a jeep with a few soldiers, and we started to throw stones. Then another jeep arrived. After a few minutes we saw that the jeeps had retreated somewhat but a group soldiers hid behind the grass there. Suddenly, one of them crouched and fired the gas canister straight at us."
He said none of the soldiers attempted to give aid to his wounded cousin. He flagged down a taxi that took them toward the hospital in Ramallah. The taxi was met by an ambulance en route.
The IDF Central Command regards these types of disturbances as a particular challenge for the troops in the West Bank. To avoid fatalities during violent demonstrations, non-lethal weapons are used, primarily gas canisters (whose use requires approval of the company commander ) or rubber-coated bullets (whose use requires an okay from the district brigade commander ).
The rule of thumb used by Central Command troops is that if they feel their lives are in danger, they should open fire after warning that they will shoot if the suspect does not stop. It seems that in this case the soldiers did not feel personally threatened, but had to disperse the violent gathering.
"When there are demonstrations whose purpose is to demonstrate - to raise a flag or some other legitimate thing - there will be no violent intervention by our forces," said a company commander whose soldiers serve in the Judea and Samaria Division. "But when things start to get complicated, when stones are thrown that threaten the force in one way or another, or there is a security threat, the soldiers are expected to act in accordance with their orders."
On February 24 a Palestinian was killed during clashes at the Qalandiyah checkpoint. In December, a Palestinian man was killed when he was hit by a gas canister shot at him at close range during a riot near the village of Nabi Saleh, an incident that was caught on film.
Last month a French national was seriously injured by a gas canister fired at close range during a demonstration at Nabi Saleh.
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