Rights group Amnesty International on Friday described this week’s shooting death of a young Palestinian woman at a checkpoint in the West Bank as an “extrajudicial execution.”
Israel had on Thursday defended the actions of its soldiers who shot dead the 18-year-old as questions swirled over events leading to the killing.
Hadeel al-Hashlamon was shot on Tuesday at a checkpoint in the city of Hebron. The military said she was attempting to stab a soldier when they opened fire.
“Evidence obtained by Amnesty International indicates that the killing… was an extrajudicial execution,” the group said.
“Pictures of the stand-off that led to her death and accounts by eyewitnesses interviewed by Amnesty International show that she at no time posed a sufficient threat to the soldiers to make their use of deliberate lethal force permissible,” it said.
“This killing is the latest in a long line of unlawful killings carried out by the Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank with near total impunity.”
An activist with the Palestinian group Youth Against Settlements that distributed photos purporting to show the woman at the checkpoint before her death said he arrived at the scene shortly afterwards.
“She did not have a knife,” said the activist, Issa Amro. “She was murdered in cold blood and was not a threat to the soldiers.”
Israeli rights group B’Tselem on Thursday denounced what it called the “disproportionate reaction” of the soldiers, saying they were too quick in resorting to live fire.
Israeli news media on Thursday published a photo distributed by the military of a knife on the ground that the woman allegedly used.
According to a military official, the checkpoint’s metal detector sounded when she walked through it and soldiers ordered her to stop.
“She didn’t stop and continued walking,” the official said. “She approached one of the troops while pulling a knife out of her bag while the soldiers fired at the ground, then at her legs. In spite of this, she continued walking. The troops then fired at her lower body.”
The rights group disputed the Israeli’s military’s version of events, saying it “is contradicted by statements made by the two eyewitnesses interviewed by Amnesty International”.
The IDF said on Wednesday that “the perpetrator approached the checkpoint and the metal detector was activated, alerting the troops’ suspicion. Forces at the scene asked the perpetrator to stop, at which point she approached the forces, disregarding the instructions and raising further suspicion.”
A Palestinian witness, Fawaz Abu Eisheh, said he was at the checkpoint on his way to work at the Hebron municipality and heard the troops ordering the woman to stop.
“Soldiers were shouting at a veiled girl, while aiming their weapons at her and asking her in Hebrew to step back,” Abu Eisheh said, adding that he thought there might be a language barrier and offered to translate.
He said he told the woman to walk back toward the exit area of the checkpoint and that she heard him and began walking in that direction.
“While she was walking there, one of the soldiers stopped her and shot toward the floor, the girl stopped like a needle, she didn’t move,” he said. Several other soldiers then surrounded her, and everyone was shouting, he added.
Abu Eish said he asked the soldiers to wait while he spoke with her. “In the middle of all this shouting, one of the soldiers shot directly at her left leg, she fell down and didn’t move,” he said.
“After 10 to 15 seconds later, he shot another bullet at her right leg, after 10 seconds, he shot four, five bullets at her abdomen and chest area, and then after five, ten seconds he shot another bullet from one meter far,” he said.
Her father said she was innocent and had been killed “in cold blood” by multiple shots.
The IDF rebuffed claims published by the Middle East Eye that soldiers prevented medical personnel from treating the wounded woman for “at least half an hour,” saying “treatment began immediately upon the medical team’s arrival to the checkpoint.”
“The treatment was discontinued for a period of two minutes in order to ensure that the perpetrator wasn’t armed with explosives, after which the medical team continued the treatment.”
— AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.