Palestinian critical after being shot at close range in face-off with IDF

Army looking into incident, caught on video, during operation to confiscate construction equipment; TV report says soldier may have accidentally discharged weapon

Palestinians scuffle with Israeli soldiers outside of al-Tuwani in the West Bank, on January 1, 2021 (screenshot)
Palestinians scuffle with Israeli soldiers outside of al-Tuwani in the West Bank, on January 1, 2021 (screenshot)

An unarmed Palestinian man was in critical condition Friday after being shot at close range by Israeli forces during an operation to confiscate illegal Palestinian construction equipment in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills.

The Palestinian Health Ministry later said that the man, Haroun Abu Aram, was left paralyzed from the neck down following the incident.

On Friday evening, the Israeli Defense Forces confirmed Palestinian reports that 24-year-old Abu Aram, a resident of the unrecognized village of al-Rakeez, had been hit by live fire.

In a video from the scene, Palestinians can be seen scuffling with Israeli soldiers in an attempt to take back a generator apparently confiscated by the troops. After the brawl escalates, a gunshot rings out off-camera. When the camera turns back towards the scene, Abu Aram is lying on the ground, apparently having been shot.

A spokesperson for the Israeli army described the scuffle as “a violent incident in which violence was directed at Israeli forces by a number of Palestinians.”

“The Israel Defense Forces acknowledges that a Palestinian was shot with live fire during the incident. The incident is being looked into,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson further asserted that the shooting was preceded by “massive stone-throwing” by a crowd of over 150 Palestinians against Israeli troops. While far from uncommon at West Bank Palestinian demonstrations, no stone-throwing could be seen in the video.

Channel 12 News reported that an initial inquiry showed a soldier had accidentally discharged his weapon, hitting Abu Aram.

Abu Aram did not appear to be armed and the video indicated no warning shots were fired before he was shot. He was initially taken to a hospital in the local town of Yatta, the B’Tselem rights group said, adding that the bullet had hit him in the neck. When his condition deteriorated, he was taken to a larger hospital in Hebron.

According to B’Tselem, the dispute over the generator took place during an operation by Israeli forces to prevent illegal Palestinian construction in the area by confiscating construction equipment. Israeli authorities do not recognize many Palestinian settlements in the South Hebron Hills region, and regularly demolish construction they say is illegal.

Palestinians counter that Israel rarely issues permits for them to legally build in Area C. Around 200,000 Palestinians live in the zone, where the Oslo Accords grant Israel full civilian and security control — including over construction. But between 2016 and 2018, according to data released by the Civil Administration to the Bimkom rights group, only 1.4% of Palestinian requests for permits were granted.

Abu Aram’s own house in the unrecognized village of al-Rakeez was demolished in November by Israeli authorities as part of a crackdown on illegal Palestinian construction, according to a report by B’Tselem.

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