US calls for investigation into 7-year-old Palestinian boy’s death in occupied West Bank

Rayan Suleiman’s family says the seven-year-old’s heart stopped and he collapsed after running in fear from Israeli soldiers who were raiding his home in search of alleged “stone-throwers.”

A seven-year-old Palestinian boy died on Thursday when his heart stopped, allegedly after being chased and frightened by Israeli soldiers as they raided his home. 

Rayan Yasser Suleiman, 7, was pronounced dead on Thursday afternoon at the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital, shortly after he fell unconscious near his home in the town of Tuqu’ in the southern occupied West Bank. 

Rayan’s family says that his heart stopped and he collapsed to the ground after he ran in fear from Israeli army soldiers who were raiding his home in search of alleged “stone-throwers” in the town. 

“Yesterday, the Israeli soldiers said that a few children threw stones at them in the village,” Muhammad Adel Suleiman, 27, Rayan’s cousin told Mondoweiss on Friday, just hours after young Rayan was laid to rest in the village. 

Muhammad said there was nothing happening in the village at the time, “no clashes, nothing,” when Israeli soldiers raided homes in the town, claiming they had stones thrown at them by some local boys. 

“They broke into the village and began searching homes for children,” Muhammad recounted.  “They searched some homes before coming to search Rayan’s house, after seeing him and his brothers near the house. Rayan is the youngest of three boys: Ali, 8, and Khalid, 10. 

“They came to the house and the soldiers started banging on the door aggressively,” Mohammad said, noting that at this point, all three boys were inside the house. The soldiers allegedly wanted to arrest Ali and Khalid, claiming that they threw stones at the soldiers. 

“My uncle tried very hard to prevent the soldiers from taking the children, and there was screaming all throughout the house,” Mohammad said. “Rayan came out of his room to see what was happening, and when the soldiers saw him, they started screaming at him too.”

Mohammad said that Rayan was frightened, and began running through the house as soldiers chased him in an attempt to catch him. Frightened, Rayan ran out onto the street, where he collapsed. 

“I heard some people screaming, so I went outside my home to see what’s going on,” Muhammad, who lives next door, said. 

“Some people were saying that a child had fallen from the house while the army was chasing him. When I saw Rayan lying in the street, I picked him up and then took off his clothes to check for wounds but I didn’t see any bleeding or injuries,” Muhammad said, discounting initial reports that Rayan had fallen, causing his death.

“He was unconscious, I tried to wake him up by pouring some water on his face,” Mohammad said. “I tried to move his face and then his hands, but his body was limp, and he wasn’t moving.”

The family rushed Rayan to the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after. Doctors told the family the cause of death was a heart attack. 

“A feeling of sadness, anger and hatred hangs over us in the village now after Rayan’s martyrdom,” Mohammad said, adding that Rayan’s mother has been taken to the hospital several times since her son died, and Rayan’s father is in shock, refusing to speak to anyone. 

“My message to the world is that we only want to live in safety and peace. Peace and safety for the children.”

Calls for investigation

Following reports of Rayan’s death, the Israeli army said in a statement that  “an initial inquiry shows no connection between the searches conducted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in the area and the tragic death of the child,” Reuters reported. 

Israeli media reports, both from Haaretz and The Times of Israel, cited Israeli army and security sources as saying that the soldiers questioned the boys’ parents “without the kids being present.” The sources also claimed they did not chase Rayan. 

During Thursday’s press briefing, the US State Department said it “supports a thorough and immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death,” and that it was “heartbroken to learn of the death of an innocent Palestinian child.”

“As President Biden and Secretary Blinken have repeated numerous times, Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom and prosperity,” the spokesperson said. 

The EU Representative in the West Bank, the Gaza strip and UNRWA also released a similar statement, saying it was “shocked by the tragic death” of Rayan. “Under international law, children enjoy special protection. The circumstances of this incident must be swiftly and fully investigated by Israeli authorities in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The United Kingdom Consulate General in Jerusalem also echoed calls for an investigation into Rayan’s death. 

Brad Parker, Senior Advocacy and Policy Advisor at Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), told Mondoweiss in a statement that “Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank live in a hyper-militarized context where Israeli forces unlawfully kill, torture, and detain children with impunity.”

“Israeli forces know no bounds as they attempt to control an incredibly young occupied Palestinian population through intimidation, threats, nighttime incursions, collective punishment, and by instilling fear. International child rights norms and Israel’s own laws prohibit a seven-year-old child from being arrested and prosecuted, yet heavily-armed Israeli soldiers flagrantly ignore this reality, routinely chasing and detaining young Palestinian children, striking fear into them and ensuring they have no safe spaces to develop and thrive,” Parker said. 

According to DCIP, 22 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied West Bank by Israeli soldiers and settlers since the start of the year.