The U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson said Thursday it demanded "an immediate and thorough investigation" into the killing of a seven-year-old Palestinian who died during Israeli army activity in a West Bank town, according to Palestinians.
“We are heartbroken by the death of an innocent child," Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said.
The boy, Rian Suleiman, was frightened and "suffered a heart attack" when soldiers came to arrest his brothers in his family's home in the Palestinian town of Teqoa, near Bethlehem, according to the deceased boy's uncle.
A defense official told Haaretz that the soldiers arrived at the home to question the boy's parents about a stone-throwing incident that happened earlier. The Palestinian Health Ministry had initially published a contradictory claim, saying the boy fell to his death while being chased by the Israeli army.
The Palestinians added that Rian was taken to hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead soon after. The Israeli army is investigating the case. In a statement released later on Thursday, the army said "the claims about the minor's death are known. An initial investigation found no connection between his death and the activity of soldiers in the area."
Mohammed Suleiman, the boy's uncle, said Rian was at home with his parents and two brothers when soldiers loudly knocked on the door. He added that the army wanted to arrest the two brothers, ages 8 and 10, for allegedly throwing rocks at soldiers. "Rian's father opened the door and the soldiers entered. Then, there was a commotion and a lot of screaming. Out of fear, [Rian] collapsed and had a heart attack," Suleiman said, adding that the child did not have any prior medical conditions. "He was a completely healthy boy filled with happiness, and within minutes we lost him," he said.
An Israeli army source said that soldiers were chasing a group of kids who were throwing stones, when they lost sight of them. "Near one of the houses, the soldiers saw a father standing with his children and identified them as the kids who threw rocks, though it's unclear if they were the same kids. The army officer spoke to the father without the kids being present, and after he left the house the man began to yell, causing the officer to realize that the child is in danger. According to the officer, he did not know that the child was injured."
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On Wednesday, four Palestinians were killed, including two militants wanted by the IDF, during clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin. According to Palestinians, 44 people were wounded during the exchange of gunfire.
The army said that soldiers were sent to the Jenin refugee camp to arrest Abed Fathi Hazem, the brother of Palestinian terrorist Raad Hazem who killed three people in Tel Aviv in April before being shot by security forces in Jaffa.
Several hours later, Fatah called for a "day of rage" across the West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said after the deadly raid that "the Israeli occupation still undervalues the lives of our Palestinian people, and is tampering with security and stability by continuing its policy of escalation."