The father of an Israeli teenager shot dead while working on the Egyptian border fence accused the government and military of failing to provide adequate protection for the Israeli workers on Tuesday.
Nimer Bassem Abu Amar, a 15-year-old from Lakiya, a predominantly Bedouin village in southern Israel, was struck in the upper body by shots fired from Egypt as he worked along the border fence, near Mount Harif on Tuesday. He later died of his injuries.
The father, Bassem Abu Amar, described his son as “modest, hard-working and serious.”
According to the teen’s father, the Israel Defense Forces did not sufficiently guard the workers.
“They abandoned him,” the father told reporters outside Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center, where his son had been taken.
“More people could have died. Where’s the prime minister? Where’s the defense minister?” he asked.
While members of Knesset have sent condolences to the family and some have expressed anger at the Defense Ministry for employing a minor through a civilian subcontractor, neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had released public statements about the incident as of Tuesday night.
Neither the army nor the Defense Ministry would comment on whether the workers had been provided with armed escorts or if the work on the border had been coordinated with the Egyptians ahead of time.
“The after-action review is ongoing,” an IDF spokesperson said.
However, the IDF told Channel 2 that soldiers were stationed at the border fence to protect the workers at the time of the shooting.
According to the manager of the work site, Nor Nimer, who also spoke to reporters outside the hospital, the teen had been working on the Egyptian side of the border during the incident, giving out coffee to the other employees.
At a certain point, an Egyptian soldier told the workers in Arabic, “Get out of here,” Nimer told reporters.
A short time later, Abu Amar was shot.
According to the Nimer and the slain teen’s father, the Egyptian security forces fired the fatal shot.
Israel’s Channel 10 news reported that the shooting may have been carried out by Egyptian forces who misidentified Abu Amar, believing him to be a smuggler or a terrorist.
Earlier in the day, Egyptian security sources told Sky News Arabia that it was a group the smugglers that opened fire at the Israeli contractors, during a clash with Egyptian troops.
Neither the Israeli army nor the Defense Ministry would comment on the claims.
The teen’s father also criticized the army for not returning fire after the shooting.
“The IDF came and took cover. Soldiers need to respond,” Bassem Abu Amar said, in Arabic-accented Hebrew.
As Abu Amar’s son was a minor, it was not immediately clear how the slain teenager was connected to the subcontractor that was working for the Defense Ministry.
Initially, the Defense Ministry said Abu Amar was simply an employee of the civilian subcontractor it had hired to perform maintenance work on the fence. But later the ministry appeared to indicate that the teenager was not a formal employee, but had been “brought to the work site by his family members,” a spokesperson said.
The ministry said it had “reached out to the maintenance subcontractor company” and was still investigating how the minor came to be employed at the work site.
This was not the first time civilian contractors employed by the Defense Ministry have been killed while working close to the border, nor was Abu Amar the first 15-year-old fatality.
In 2014, a missile was fired at a group of contractors and one of the workers’ sons, who were riding in a car near the Syrian border. The 15-year-old, Muhammad Qaraqra, was killed and three others were injured in the attack.