Palestinian Nakba Day victim shot by live fire, autopsy finds

IDF has maintained only rubber bullets were used at the rally, declines to comment on findings

Palestinian demonstrators help an injured friend during clashes with Israeli security forces outside Ofer prison in the West Bank village of Betunia, on Thursday, May 16, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian demonstrators help an injured friend during clashes with Israeli security forces outside Ofer prison in the West Bank village of Betunia, on Thursday, May 16, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)

A Palestinian teenager shot and killed at a West Bank rally last month was killed by live fire, most likely shot by the IDF, an autopsy performed Wednesday found.

Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, was one of two Palestinian teens killed on May 15 at a Nakba Day rally in Beitunia, near Ramallah.

The IDF, which has said only non-lethal dispersal methods were used by troops against the demonstration, declined to comment on the findings.

Palestinian and Israeli specialists, as well as two pathologists from the US and Denmark, were in attendance during the autopsy, which took place at the Abu Dis Institute of Forensic Medicine in the West Bank.

An entry and exit wound were detected on the body, and shrapnel was also found, the Ma’an Palestinian news agency reported.

The location of the wounds led investigators to believe that the fire came from Israeli troops, according to Israeli media reports.

Israel has denied that any live fire was used to disperse demonstrators at the event, and maintained that only rubber bullets were fired.

A video released following the incident seemed to show the two teens shot while walking in an area away from the demonstration. A senior Defense Ministry official had told The Times of Israel the video was likely doctored.

The exhuming of the body and autopsy were approved by Nawara’s family, despite their initial objections on religious grounds. Siam Nawara, the father of Nadeem, explained that “the investigation will not bring my son back, but his exhumation will expose the Israeli government and prevent them from killing more children.”

Nawara’s parents earlier handed over a bullet found in their son’s backpack after the attack to Palestinian investigators, and the Israeli military police have requested it as well for its independent investigation. The Nawara family said Monday it discovered the bullet a few days after the incident, but have not handed over the evidence for fear it will be tampered with. They demanded a joint Palestinian-Israeli investigation, brokered by international forces, to ensure the findings are accepted by all parties.

The family of the other victim, Mohammad Abu Daher, 16, has refused to allow an autopsy on his body, but will meet with an international investigative committee.

The incident has been the subject of an IDF investigation, after footage from the demonstration emerged purportedly showing the two Palestinians’ deaths after Israeli troops allegedly fired at them without provocation.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on May 20 that her office was seeking additional information from the Israeli government in order to determine whether the soldiers’ use of force was justified.

“We look to the government of Israel to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to determine the facts surrounding this incident, including whether or not the use of force was proportional to the threat posed by the demonstrators,” she said, adding, “we are encouraging the government of Israel to conduct their own investigation.”

Israeli military officials responded that they had been investigating the incident since May 16, and had also opened a military police investigation. Preliminary findings indicated no live fire had been used by IDF troops, they said.

Palestinian witnesses at the scene insisted the two had been killed by live ammunition.

An IDF soldier from a communications unit who accompanied Border Police at the Nakba Day rally was suspended from his unit on May 28 for firing rubber bullets that day against protocol.

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