Palestinian girl rushes guards in apparent suicide attempt
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Palestinian girl rushes guards in apparent suicide attempt

Unarmed 13-year-old shot in the leg after entering checkpoint’s vehicles-only lane, ignoring warnings; ‘I came to die,’ she says

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Security guards shoot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in the leg as she refused to halt at the Eliyahu Crossing in the West Bank, on September 21, 2016. (Defense Ministry)
Security guards shoot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in the leg as she refused to halt at the Eliyahu Crossing in the West Bank, on September 21, 2016. (Defense Ministry)

Security guards at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who did not heed their calls to halt on Wednesday morning, in what appears to have been a suicide attempt, the Defense Ministry said.

The incident was initially misreported as an attempted stabbing attack. However, upon searching her possessions, a sapper “did not find anything,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The girl approached the vehicle crossing by foot, holding a bag,” arousing the suspicion of the security guards, the statement said.

They “ordered her to stop and even fired warning shots into the air,” the ministry said, but when the teenager continued approaching despite the calls to halt, the guards “shot her in the legs in order to stop her.”

During an initial investigation of the incident, the teenager said, “I came to die,” according to the ministry.

The girl, identified by Palestinian sources as Bara’a Ramadan Owaisi of nearby Qalqilya, was lightly injured and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Her aunt, Rasha Owaisi, 23, was shot dead at the same checkpoint last November after she brandished a knife and approached the guards there. The aunt had left a suicide note for her family.

A video circulating online appeared to depict the moment of Wednesday’s shooting.

The past year of Palestinian attacks has seen several instances in which teenagers appeared to provoke gunfire from Israeli security forces in order to commit suicide.

One such case, in late April, was echoed in Wednesday’s incident: A Palestinian brother and sister — Maram Hassan Abu Ismail, 23, and her brother Ibrahim Saleh Taha, 16 — were shot dead by Defense Ministry security guards at the Qalandiya crossing in the central West Bank, as they approached a vehicles-only lane on foot.

Initially, police said Abu Ismail then hurled a knife at security personnel before she was shot. A knife was recovered at the scene, and a spokeswoman said a second, identical knife was found on Taha’s belt, along with a Leatherman-style multi-tool.

But as an investigation into the incident was opened, police said they suspect the guards were wrong to shoot the Palestinians, according to a Channel 10 news report. After the incident, police said they would investigate suspicions of unlawful conduct by the guards.

The past week has seen a renewed surge in attacks, after months in which the violence that marked 2015 and early 2016 appeared to have waned. From Friday to Tuesday, Palestinian assailants carried out daily attacks on Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and the Hebron area, where Palestinians live in close proximity to settlers and Israeli troops.

Officials fear the upcoming Jewish holidays and the recently ended Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday could be behind the raised tensions.

The holiday and the month of September “are always more susceptible to spikes in violent Palestinian activities,” a military official, speaking anonymously, said Saturday. “The motivation and inspiration to carry out attacks against Israelis remains strong.”

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