Palestinian Teen Killed by Israeli Army Fire in South Hebron Hills

Israeli military officials say Yusuf Abu-Akar, 15, tried to sabotage the separation barrier along with two other people. Village residents claim otherwise.

An Israel Defense Forces unit shot to death a 15-year-old Palestinian teen near Deir Al-Asal in the South Hebron Hills Wednesday morning.

The army said the Palestinian was trying to sabotage the separation barrier. The teen, Yusuf Abu-Akar, was injured seriously and evacuated for treatment at Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva, where he was declared dead. Residents of the teen's village said he was out collecting plants with friends on the way to school.

The IDF did not respond directly as to whether they found a device for cutting the fence, but that a preliminary investigation is underway.

According to the army, three Palestinians approached the fence and started cutting it. The force performed the procedure for stopping a suspect, shooting first in the air and then toward the Palestinian, according to the report. One of the boys, Abu-Akar, was shot in the hip, and later died of his wounds.

Residents from the village counter that he was out picking gundelia, a thistle-type plant used in cooking, on his way to school. They assert they heard shots around 7 A.M.

An investigator from human rights NGO Al-Haq told Haaretz that two of the deceased's friends, a boy of 12 and another 15-year-old, as well as an elderly gentleman who was gathering almonds in the area, were arrested.

Local residents pick gundelia, which grows on their lands, from both sides of the barrier. According to the Al-Haq investigator, there are two breeches in the fence through which boys tend to go out and pick plants, and he found blood stains on the Western side of the fence.

There are several recent reports of arrests of locals by the Israeli Border Police while picking gundelia. Another possibility is that the teen was trying to cross into Israel to look for work. He had no work permit.

Palestinian youth have increasingly sought work because of economic stress and a lack of job opportunities in the Palestinian Authority. Police arrested dozens of youth up north this week – among them several minors – who entered Israel without a permit to look for a job in construction or agriculture.

Nir Kafri