Ramallah, August 21, 2020—Israeli forces shot and detained a 16-year-old Palestinian boy on Wednesday night in the occupied West Bank and informed his family the next day that he was dead.
Late Wednesday night, three Palestinian teenagers approached a road used by Israeli settlers near the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Meshal, located northwest of Ramallah, seemingly to throw stones or Molotov cocktails, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Israeli forces in a nearby concealed position opened-fire with live ammunition injuring all three boys.
Mohammad Damer Hamdan Matar, 16, was shot and detained by Israeli forces. The other boys, aged 14 and 15 years old, sustained gunshot wounds to their lower bodies but were able to escape. The next day, August 20, Israeli authorities contacted Matar’s family informing them that he had been killed, according to information collected by DCIP.
Matar’s body has not yet been handed over to his family. His remains are currently held at Abu Kabir Forensic Medical Institute in Tel Aviv, according to Al Jazeera. The two injured boys are in stable condition in Ramallah-area hospitals, according to information collected by DCIP.
“International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable to protect life, and only when lesser means would be insufficient to apprehend a suspect,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International – Palestine. “Where individuals allegedly carry out a violent criminal act, they should be apprehended in accordance with international law and afforded due process of law.”
Under international law, intentional lethal force is only justified in circumstances where a direct threat to life or of serious injury is present. However, investigations and evidence collected by DCIP regularly suggest that Israeli forces use lethal force against Palestinian children in circumstances that do not appear to be warranted and may amount to extrajudicial or wilful killings.
While it is unclear if Israeli authorities are withholding Matar’s body, Israeli authorities have implemented a policy of confiscating and withholding Palestinian bodies in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. For grieving families, the Israeli policy of confiscating and withholding Palestinian bodies amounts to collective punishment.
In September 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court approved the practice of confiscating human remains after several legal challenges to the policy. On November 27, 2019, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered all bodies of Palestinians alleged to have attacked Israeli citizens or soldiers to be withheld and not returned to their families. Israel is the only country in the world with such a policy of confiscating human remains, according to Adalah.
Since 2018, DCIP has documented five cases, not including Matar’s, where Israeli authorities confiscated and withheld children’s bodies from family members. In two cases, the human remains were eventually released, but in the three other cases, the bodies remain in Israeli custody, withheld from their families.