The Premeditated Killing of Amjad, a 14-year-old Palestinian

I’ve written here before about Amjad Abu Sultan, a 14-year-old boy who lived near Bethlehem. But his short life and the way he was lured to his death deserve more attention

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amjad Abu Sultan.
Amjad Abu Sultan. His short life and the way he was lured to his death deserve more attention.
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The soldiers waited in ambush in the dark for Amjad Abu Sultan, a 14-year-old child. Then they shot him dead. It is well known that one of the main sources of intelligence for the Israel Defense Forces is Shin Bet field officers. According to a spokesperson for the security service, Abu Sultan had written the field officer in the Bethlehem area that he planned to throw a firebomb and that he himself had carried out acts for which a friend of his, Adham, had been arrested. In an exchange of text messages found on the boy’s cellphone, the field officer wrote that unlike his friend who had been apprehended, Abu Sultan was a “nobody” and didn’t interest him.

In short: The field officer provoked the boy and pushed him to do “something bigger.” Why did he provoke him? Why did he not order the army to arrest the boy? After all, the IDF and the Israel Police arrest Palestinians for making far less boastful pronouncements. Why did the soldiers kill the boy instead of arresting him before he could act? Is it only to me and the boy’s family that this sounds like a trap was being set in order to kill him? The Israeli organization Parents Against Child Detention should take note.

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From their hiding places the soldiers would have seen Amjad and another child, M., approaching the outskirts of Beit Jala on the evening of Thursday, October 14. How many soldiers were there? A dozen? Eight? Five? We don’t know. We can assume that they saw the two children descending the wadi between the olive trees, thistles and rocks, and observed them as they walked along the path and then climbed up, toward the wall. Amjad lit the way with the flashlight on his phone, according to M., who was caught, arrested and then released a few days later. The soldiers could have caught Amjad alive as well, before anything happened. This was no military conflict. There was no rioting crowd throwing stones and firebombs, appearing all of a sudden out of nowhere.

The family of Amjad Abu SultanCredit: Noam Revkin-Fenton

Three bullets pierced Amjad’s back. Their trajectory was from below to above, and thus we understand the topography – a hilly slope. The soldiers were at the bottom of the hill, while the boy was higher up, but still far from the wall abutting the Tunnel Road. The boy, his back to the soldiers, was holding a firebomb. He lit it – and was shot instantly. The bottle fell from his hands. The small fire that was ignited burned itself out.

Let’s replay the scenario. Well-trained, armed soldiers, skilled in weapons and combat, who outnumber the two children and are older, taller and stronger, killed the child, instead of overpowering him. They killed him and thus violated the international legal criteria that permit law enforcement officials to take a life: absolute necessity and proportionality. This is what’s called illegal execution.

I have already written twice about Amjad Abu Sultan, but his premeditated killing is worthy of more attention – even if he was holding a firebomb. A boy who began his life in the Gaza Strip under Israeli bombardment, passed the rest of his short life in the Bethlehem area, between security barriers, barbed-wire fences, military guard towers, roads prohibited to Palestinians, and soldiers armed with guns who often enter residential neighborhoods. Yet, nevertheless, he would laugh and joke around, and explore the hilly terrain around the city, on foot and by electric bicycle. And yes, sometimes he would throw stones at a fortified military position in the wall. Once he was wounded by gunfire.

A planned ambush is exactly what it sounds like: an ambush based on prior information, a great part of which was passed on to the army, we can assume, by the Bethlehem area field officer known as Captain Wissam Abu Ayoub. Like his Shin Bet colleagues, also this “Captain” had an active Facebook page by means of which he would contact his subjects directly, writing greetings and showing an interest in their well-being. In their responses, one should note, the subjects would mostly ridicule and curse him. It was through his Facebook page that so-called Captain Abu Ayoub corresponded with the boy Amjad. It began with comments that Amjad published following one of the Captain’s posts, and continued by means of personal correspondence via the messenger app.

Pedophiles know that children frequent social media and that they can easily find their prey there. The Shin Bet knows that Palestinian children frequent social media, and the Shin Bet knows that Palestinian children (and older Palestinians as well) post curses there against the occupying state and its representatives, and praise those who they think fight against it and challenge it (for example, military figure Mohammed Deif). Those who are not familiar with the weapons of the military junta, and are not imprisoned between its walls, find it hard to understand, but verbal brawls with Shin Bet agents on Facebook is a way for Palestinian children – who do not understand the helplessness of their parents and the political leadership – to let off steam.

Captain Abu Ayoub published his mobile phone number 052-4704465 on his Facebook profile. It was from that number, on October 15, that he called Amjad’s father, Osama, and informed him that the army had killed his son and was holding his body (which was returned, frozen, some five weeks later). Why did he not call the boy’s parents earlier, and why did he not warn them and tell them to keep Amjad from going near the wall? Why was it so important for the Shin Bet and the IDF to lure 14-year-old Amjad to his death?

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