Less than a week has passed since a 14-year-old boy was shot and killed in confrontations between Palestinians and IDF soldiers in the town of al-Khader near Bethlehem. Eyewitnesses said Zaid Abu Mohammed Ghanim was not involved in the riots at all. Relatives said he was on his way to his grandmother’s house when he was shot in the back by soldiers, at a distance of about 150 meters from his house, where his mother and sister waited for him.
The incident occurred on Friday. The IDF said Palestinians threw firebombs at the soldiers, who were guarding a junction on the road that leads to the settlement of Efrat, and that the troops chased after them into al-Khader. There, rocks and firebombs were hurled at the soldiers, at which point the soldiers fired at a suspect, the military said.
However, according to witnesses, Ghanim was shot when he passed by the soldiers, without provoking them. Then, witnesses said, he fled and hid in a nearby house, where he received medical treatment from the residents and from soldiers. He was then evacuated to the hospital by the Red Crescent Society ambulance service, where he was pronounced dead.
One witness said that in the minutes leading up to the firing, a number of children gathered and threw rocks at the army checkpoint, and the soldiers responded by firing tear gas. Another witness who watched from her balcony said that later, when the soldiers entered the village, she saw Ghanim walking up the street. The soldiers shot him next to her home, and he then managed to flee to one of the houses on the street and hide in the garage before collapsing, she said. The woman said she called the house and asked them to close the garage door. She showed Haaretz the marks of the shots that hit the stone fence of her house.
One of the residents of the house Ghanim fled to said he found the teenager in the garage, wounded in the back, lying down and breathing with difficulty. The family treated him and later the soldiers joined in. Red Crescent workers who evacuated the boy to the hospital said later that he was shot in the back and neck. A video of the evacuation shows gunshot wounds in his back.
Ghanim’s family gathered over the past few days in the mourning tent at their house. His father, Mohammed Ghanim, said his son dreamt of being a soccer player and was registered with the village’s soccer team. “He was never involved in clashes. He wasn’t involved in politics,” he said.
Ghanim was the third person from al-Khader killed since February. His cousin Mohammed Ali Ghanim was shot and killed in April, after the IDF said he threw a firebomb at Route 60. A poster was put up in the tent with the pictures of the three people killed. Some of the children wandered around the area of the tent dressed in shirts with Ghanim’s picture on them.
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Ghanim’s sister Saja was supposed to get married this Friday, but the wedding was postponed.
Zeineb Ghanim, his paternal grandmother, said in fluent Hebrew that she worked for years as a cleaner in Israel and the settlements, until the pandemic started. His father said he’d also worked in Israel, but his work permit had been revoked. “I almost went myself to the soldiers at the checkpoint to ask them – why did you do this to the boy?” said the grandmother. “He was a good boy, why are you doing this to children? I know very good Jews, but your soldiers are evil. I want for people in Israel to know what they did to him.”