US lawmaker wants Israel military aid halted over Palestinian deaths
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US lawmaker wants Israel military aid halted over Palestinian deaths

Betty McCollum asks State Department to probe 'brutal system of occupation that devalues and dehumanizes Palestinian children'

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

In this Thursday, May 15, 2014, photo, men rush to the aid of Mohammad Abu Daher, 17, moments after he was killed in a clash with Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)
In this Thursday, May 15, 2014, photo, men rush to the aid of Mohammad Abu Daher, 17, moments after he was killed in a clash with Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

A US congresswoman has asked the State Department to investigate whether the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli security forces last year would preclude Israel from receiving military aid under American law.

In a letter to the State Department officials last week, Minnesota representative Betty McCollum said the deaths of Nadeem Siam Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh in May 2014 demonstrated the “brutal system of occupation that devalues and dehumanizes Palestinian children.”

The two Palestinian youths, aged 16 and 17, were killed during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops outside the West Bank city of Ramallah during a May 2014 protest for Nakba Day, an annual commemoration of Palestinian displacement following the establishment of the State of Israel.

“It is time for a strong and unequivocal statement of US commitment to the human rights of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation,” McCollum wrote in the August 18 letter, which was released to the public on Monday.

Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum. (US Congress/Wikimedia/public domain/Sillyputty87)
Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum. (US Congress/Wikimedia/public domain/Sillyputty87)

McCollum urged State Department officials to determine whether the killing of the teens was in violation of the Leahy Act, a US human rights law that prohibits the State and Defense departments from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.

In a surveillance video posted by the Palestine division of Defense for Children International, a global NGO, appears to show one teen being shot as he walked by a gas station after the clashes had subsided. The second Palestinian teen appears to have been shot shortly afterwards.

The IDF initially maintained that only nonlethal dispersal methods were used by troops during the Nakba Day demonstration. A senior Defense Ministry official also told The Times of Israel at the time that the video of the incident had likely been doctored.

An autopsy performed by Palestinian and Israeli pathologists in June, however, found that Nawara was almost certainly killed by live fire, most likely from an IDF weapon. An Israeli military investigation into the shooting, carried out following the autopsy, found that an Israeli border policeman had illegally used live ammunition during the protest.

A Jerusalem District Court indicted the 21-year-old border policeman in December on manslaughter charges.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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