IDF to censure officer over mistaken gunfire that killed Palestinian toddler

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Mohammed Tamimi (left), who was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire in the West Bank on June 1, 2023. (Right) The scene of the incident near the settlement of Neve Tzuf. (Social media; Medabrim Tikshoret)
Mohammed Tamimi (left), who was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire in the West Bank on June 1, 2023. (Right) The scene of the incident near the settlement of Neve Tzuf. (Social media; Medabrim Tikshoret)

The Israel Defense Forces says it has wrapped up its probe into the death of a Palestinian toddler who was mistakenly shot by Israeli troops in the West Bank earlier this month.

According to the probe, on June 1 two Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the settlement of Neve Tzuf (also known as Halamish) and an adjacent military post, on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh.

Troops stationed at the post returned fire, but due to a misidentification, they shot a Palestinian father and child, the latter of whom later died.

The probe says that soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras identified the two gunmen and notified the troops at the post. The soldiers at the post heard the gunfire, but did not manage to locate the source, the probe says.

An officer who quickly reached the scene began to search the area for the gunmen who fled. The officer opened fire into the air, against army regulations, after spotting a suspicious vehicle, according to the probe.

The probe says that at the same time, one of the soldiers at a post near the Palestinian village spotted two figures entering a vehicle in the area, and wrongly thought it was the gunmen who had opened fire at the settlement.

The soldier asked for permission from his commander to open fire, and after receiving an okay, he fired several bullets at the car, resulting in the fatal injury of two-and-a-half-year-old Mohammed Tamimi. His father, Haitham Tamimi, was seriously injured.

“The sequence of events and the hearing of the officer’s gunfire during the searches of the village caused the soldier to believe that it was the gunfire of the fleeing terrorists,” the IDF says.

The two Palestinians reached the army post after a short while, and were treated by military medics and other medical forces. The toddler was rushed to an Israeli hospital by military helicopter, where he died several days later.

“The investigation revealed gaps in the command and control of the commanders in the incident, as well as in the reports and dialogue between the forces in the field which led to wrong decision-making,” the IDF says.

The officer who opened fire into the air against army protocol will be formally censured, the IDF says.

The probe’s findings have been handed to the Military Prosecutor’s Office for evaluation.

The chief of the IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, says he “regrets the harm to civilians and the death of the toddler. We will continue to learn and improve in order to precisely target terrorism.”

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