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IDF: Probe finds no ties between village raid and death of 7-year-old Palestinian

Army says its soldiers entered and exited Rayan Suleiman’s town without any violence or incident; rights group says military investigation insufficient and calls for criminal probe

Palestinians watch the funeral of seven-year-old Rayan Suleiman, who died a day earlier on the sidelines of an Israeli army search in his hometown of Tuqu, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank, on September 30, 2022. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Palestinians watch the funeral of seven-year-old Rayan Suleiman, who died a day earlier on the sidelines of an Israeli army search in his hometown of Tuqu, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank, on September 30, 2022. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

The IDF announced Thursday that its investigation into last week’s death of a 7-year-old Palestinian during a raid of the boy’s village found no connection between his death and the army’s operation.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry claimed Rayan Suleiman fell from an unspecified height after being chased by soldiers near the Palestinian town of Tuqu’, south of Bethlehem. Rayan’s father appeared to provide a different version, saying his son collapsed after he saw the Israeli soldiers who had chased him appear at his front door. “He died of fear on the spot,” he told AP last week, adding that his son had not had any prior health issues.

The incident took place last Thursday, with Israeli soldiers entering Suleiman’s southern West Bank village of Tuqu’, claiming suspects who had been throwing rocks at passing cars had fled to the town after being spotted.

The IDF said that after passing through several homes, the troops noticed Suleiman’s father in the window of his house and asked him to come to the door with his children in order to question them.

The father complied, coming to the door with two children, the army said, noting that it could not confirm whether Rayan was among them. The officer held a short conversation “in a respectful manner, without any contact and certainly without the use of verbal or physical violence.”

Mourners carry the body of 7-year-old Palestinian boy Rayan Suleiman during his funeral in the West Bank village of Tuqu’ near Bethlehem Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

As the troops headed out of the village, they noticed a vehicle drive by with the father inside and a child on his lap, the army said.

“The investigation shows that during the entire time that the force was in the village, no force or means of combat of any kind were used at all,” the IDF added, noting that the probe also did not find evidence that Rayan fell or sustained an injury as a result of the troops’ actions.

“Any connection between the unfortunate death of the boy Rayan Suleiman and the operation of the force has been ruled out,” the military added.

Palestinians and human rights groups claim the Israeli army is incapable of investigating wrongdoing by its forces and that soldiers are rarely held accountable.

7-year-old Rayan Suleiman in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

The Israeli Yesh Din rights group responded to the army’s latest findings, saying that a military probe “cannot be a substitute for a thorough and professional investigation.”

“A criminal investigation must be opened following the death of Rayan Suleiman, and no less importantly, Rayan’s tragic death is further proof that the time has come to bring about a fundamental change in the army’s policy of invading Palestinian homes without a judicial order,” the group said.

A US State Department spokesman on Friday called for an “immediate and thorough” investigation into Suleiman’s death. On Wednesday he said that Washington welcomed the IDF’s probe into the matter.

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