Police Shooting of Palestinian Teen With Knife in Jerusalem Was Excessive, Witnesses Say

Those at the site of the incident say the police officers stood behind a low barrier and shot the 16-year-old while she was three or four meters away from them

Israeli border guards secure the scene of a reported stabbing attack by a Palestinian teenager at Damascus Gate, at  Jerusalem's Old City, May 7, 2017.
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

Witnesses say the shooting of 16-year-old Fatima Afif Hajiji near Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday was excessive and unnecessary. Hajiji, from the village of Qarawat Bani Zeid north of Ramallah in the West Bank, was shot dead by police officers at the Old City's Damascus Gate after she tried to attack them with a knife. The officers were not injured.

Palestinian witnesses said the police officers shot her when she was still a few meters away from them and continued to fire even after she was no longer a danger to them. A suicide note was found on her person after her death included verses from the Koran and was signed with the phrase “shahida,” or martyr.

Fatma Hajaji
Courtesy

A police statement said that “the terrorist arrived from the direction of Sultan Suleiman Street toward the Damascus Gate steps, approached the police officers stationed there, pulled out a knife in her possession and tried to attack them while shouting ‘Allahu akhbar.' The officers responded decisively and professionally and neutralized her.”

Hussam Abed, a Jerusalem resident, was sitting on the steps at the Damascus Gate about 15 meters from the site of the attack. “Suddenly I saw people running. After that I realized that the soldiers drew their weapons and people began to flee, and then they began to shoot. I looked back and saw the soldiers shooting. [Hajiji] was three to four meters from them and they shot at her,” he said.

“In my opinion, they fired at least 20 to 25 bullets. They continued to fire even though she was already on the ground,” said Abed. He and other witnesses noted that the officers stood behind a low barrier so Hajiji could not have endangered them. When she was shot, she fell near a taxi cab. The driver, Abu Hazem, said his vehicle was hit by six or seven bullets, some of which struck the tires and some, the lower part of the car. Abed says this is proof that the officers aimed low. One bullet hit a window in a building on the other side of the street, about 30 meters from the site.

A preliminary inquiry into the incident found that the police officers identified a terrorist approaching them while shouting "Allahu akhbar" and brandishing a knife in her hand, said the police. When she neared the police officers and did not respond to their calls to stop, they shot at her, subduing her and preventing an attempted terror attack. The evidence found at the site, including the knife and suicide note, testify to her intention to carry out an attack, they said.