A 15-year-old Palestinian was killed early Monday morning by Israeli military fire directed at a vehicle in the West Bank town of Beitunia, near Ramallah, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported. Another passenger in the car was moderately wounded.
An IDF spokesperson said soldiers spotted a suspicious vehicle approaching them during an operation Monday in Beitunia.
The forces signaled for the vehicle to stop, but it accelerated towards them, after which they fired at the vehicle, according to the IDF.
The Palestinian Health Ministry first misidentified the girl, but later named her as 15-year-old Fulla al-Masalmeh from the town of Beit Awwa in the southern West Bank. She was killed one day before her 16th birthday. The passenger, who was traveling with al-Masalmeh was arrested by the army and taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. The IDF said the incident is being investigated.
Beitunia residents familiar with the incident said that al-Masalmeh and the young man who was injured – a resident of the town – were driving together when apparently were startled by the soldiers’ presence, and attempted to turn the car around.
According to the residents, soldiers stationed in another position opened fire on the two, killing al-Masalmeh and wounding the young man. Witnesses also claim that there was no indication that the two tried to harm the soldiers in the area.
The army's preliminary investigation initially claimed that the driver was drunk, and the soldiers testified that he accelerated towards them. The troops said that they felt their lives were in danger, and therefore fired.
However, an updated assessment emerging from the investigation is that the driver had no intention of carrying out an attack.
The investigation also found that while the shooting initially came from the troops who faced the vehicle and felt threatened, another force on the side of the vehicle joined in the gunfire.
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Last week, a 29-year-old Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Sanur near Jenin was also shot and killed by Israeli forces. Rafat Ali Abdullah Issa was shot dead by soldiers near the village of ’Anin in the Jenin area.
According to the IDF spokesperson, a soldier that was guarding the separation fence saw Issa vandalizing the fence, and initiated an arrest procedure and subsequently shot him. Issa was taken to a hospital in Jenin in critical condition, where he died of his wounds. According to Palestinian sources, Issa tried to cross the fence to head to work in Israel.