'I Tried to Run and They Shot Me': Palestinian Teen Recounts Shooting by Israeli Soldiers

Osama Hajajeh, 16, claims he was hit for no apparent reason. The Israeli army refuses to disclose how many bullets were fired at the West Bank village and why

Palestinian teenager Osama Hajajeh receives treatment as his father watches, Beit Jala, West Bank, April 23, 2019.
AFP

“I heard my friends shouting at the soldiers while the soldiers yelled back.  I got confused and stood up, and they shot me in the right leg. Later I tried to run, and they shot me in the left leg. I fell on the ground.”

This is how Osama Hajajeh, the 16-year-old Palestinian who was shot by Israeli soldiers on Thursday as he tried to flee while blindfolded and handcuffed, recalls what happened to him.

Hajajeh and his father Ali claim that he was shot twice for no clear reason. A medical source at Al-Hussein Hospital in Beit Jala, where the boy was admitted after undergoing two operations, confirmed to Haaretz that he was wounded in both legs.

Israeli soldier points his pistol at a group of Palestinians gathering around a wounded Osama Hajahjeh, 16, near the village of Tuqu, West Bank, April 18, 2019.
Mustafa Allbadan,AP

Musa Hamid, a resident of the Palestinian West Bank village of Tekoa who witnessed the shooting, said afterward that Hajajeh was shot the first time when he was close to a soldier, and was then shot again when he was tens of meters farther away.

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Palestinian teen Osama Hajajeh attempting to flee Israeli soldiers, Tuqu, West Bank, April 18, 2019.
Mohammad Hmeid

The Israeli army's spokesperson unit refused to say how many bullets were fired at the scene of the incident and why there was a need to shoot the teen twice when he was surrounded by soldiers.

An army source told Haaretz that the issue was being looked into and that at the time, there was no intention to refer the incident for criminal investigation by the military police. Later on, the Israel Defense Forces' Spokeserson's Unit said the event was under investigation.

Hajajeh was detained in the area of Tekoa on suspicion that he hurled rocks, and was handcuffed by the soldiers.

In conversation with the Associated Press, Hajajeh said that he and his friends were let out of school early that day in order to participate in the funeral of a teacher from their village, and that after the funeral, they were detained by Israeli troops.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit noted after the incident that the teen was arrested during a "violent protest that endangered the lives of civilians and soldiers," and that he was shot while soldiers pursued the protesters. 

PAlestinian teen Osama Hajajeh bounded and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers, Tuqu, April 18, 2019.
Mustafa al-Badan

The minutes after the shooting were captured on video, in which one of the soldiers can be seen bandaging Hajajeh while another soldier with a pistol is threatening a group of Palestinians seeking to evacuate him. The soldier argued with the Palestinians but later on conceded, and the Palestinians took wounded Hajajeh to the hospital.

Hajejeh's father says that his son is in stable condition, but it is unclear when he will recover. According to the father, his son had no intention to flee from the soldiers: “We are talking about a boy who was frightened and scared. I don’t know why they shot him like this.”

He also believes that the detainment was unjustified. “I work in an area close by that overlooks the place of the incident,” he said. “There was no justification for the attack and arrest. My children are not involved in disruptions of public order or security transgressions, and they do not generally participate in demonstrations and marches. Osama is not connected at all to these kinds of events.”

The father further said, “I don’t know what will happen to the soldiers or soldier who shot him, and don’t know if the commanders will put them on trial at all. The only thing that concerns me now is that my son heals and gets back on his feet.”