Palestinians say man shot dead in clashes during funeral for boy killed by IDF

Shawkat Awad, 20, reportedly shot by troops amid riot; father of 11-year-old killed on Wednesday likely to lose permit to work in Israel; ‘I died too,’ he says

Muayyad Bahjat al-Alaama, whose son was allegedly killed after a case of mistaken identity by Israeli soldiers, at a mourning tent in his hometown of Beit Ummar in the West Bank, on Thursday, July 29, 2021 (Aaron Boxerman/The Times of Israel)
Muayyad Bahjat al-Alaama, whose son was allegedly killed after a case of mistaken identity by Israeli soldiers, at a mourning tent in his hometown of Beit Ummar in the West Bank, on Thursday, July 29, 2021 (Aaron Boxerman/The Times of Israel)

BEIT UMMAR, West Bank — A Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers on Thursday during a funeral for an 11-year-old boy shot by troops the day before, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry.

Shawkat Khalil Awad, 20, had attended the funeral for 11-year-old Mohammad al-Alaama, a fellow resident of his hometown of Beit Ummar, near Hebron. Al-Alaama was apparently killed by an Israeli soldier on Wednesday night while in his father’s car at the entrance to the town.

Awad, 20, was shot in the head and stomach by live bullets amid clashes during the funeral, the Health Ministry said. He was the fourth Palestinian to die in confrontations with Israeli soldiers this week in the West Bank, and the third in Beit Ummar, according to Palestinian Authority figures.

During the funeral, clashes broke out between Palestinian mourners and Israeli soldiers nearby, with Palestinians throwing rocks at the Israelis. Soldiers responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and Ruger bullets, considered to be a less-lethal form of live fire. They also fired live bullets in the air, the army said.

The clashes interrupted the burial midway, forcing mourners to leave al-Alaama’s body and only return later to give it an improvised, provisional burial, said al-Alaama’s great-uncle Habis, a former mayor of Beit Ummar.

The Israel Defense Forces did not respond to a request for comment on Awad’s death, although an army spokesperson had earlier stressed that a violent riot had taken place in the area.

After the fighting died down, the road to the dead boy’s house was littered with broken stones: the remnants of the bloody clashes. An Israeli military tractor swept through the streets, pushing away the clusters of rocks as several soldiers looked on. A few children gathered stones in slingshots to hurl at the soldiers below, but otherwise, the town was quiet.

Off the town’s main road, the family had set up a mourning tent. They intend to sit there for three days, as is customary, welcoming family members and guests. Mohammad al-Alaama’s father, Muayyad Bahjat, sat after the funeral.

“It wasn’t just Mohammad who died. I died too,” said al-Alaama, who works paving roads and highways inside Israel. “They killed him. They killed him in cold blood.”

The al-Alaama family struggled to bear children. Al-Alaama underwent seven years of expensive fertility treatments himself before Mohammad was born, family members said. Eleven years went by and three children were born.

On Wednesday night, according to al-Alaama, he had headed to a local store to buy groceries. The three children — 9-year-old daughter Anan, 5-year-old son Ahmad, and 11-year-old Mohammad — tagged along.

They had just reentered Beit Ummar on the way home when Mohammad piped up that they hadn’t bought some foods he’d asked for, his father said.

“I reversed the car, turned around, and started driving — and there was suddenly intense gunfire in our direction. I yelled to my children to put their heads down so they wouldn’t get hurt. I took the car forward a little.”

“Then I looked at my kids, and I saw Mohammad lying in his sister’s arms. ‘Get up, get up, son,’ I told him, but he didn’t move,” Muayyad said, his voice breaking.

Mohammad’s two siblings and father emerged from the shooting physically intact. But Muayyad said the horror of witnessing their brother’s death had left a strong mark.

“We could have been four martyrs today, me and all my children. But God only took Mohammad,” Muayyad said.

Family and friends mourn near the body of 11-years-old Mohammad Al-Alaama, in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar, near Hebron, on July 28, 2021. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Following the Wednesday night shooting, the military conceded that its soldiers had fired at a car in the area.

According to the IDF, a group of soldiers near Beit Ummar saw several Palestinians digging near a military post close to the town entrance before leaving the scene in a car. When the soldiers approached the site, they found the body of a day-old baby in a plastic bag, the army said.

A short while later, the soldiers saw a similar car. Believing it to be the Palestinians who had recently buried the baby, they sought to arrest its passengers, the military said.

“The soldiers initiated the suspect arrest procedure, which included calls [in their direction] and shooting in the air. When the vehicle did not stop, one of the soldiers fired at the wheels of the vehicle in order to stop it,” a spokesperson for the military said.

But while the military says the soldier only fired at the car wheels, the al-Alaama family car has smashed-in windows in the back and side and several bullet holes in the car’s body.

The smashed-up car in which the al-Alaama family was riding when Mohammad al-Alaama, 11, was shot and killed, on Thusrday, July 29, 2021 (Aaron Boxerman/The Times of Israel)

Beit Ummar residents told The Times of Israel that a number of local Palestinians had indeed buried a stillborn baby. Rather than bury the child in the town’s main cemetery, they buried her instead in a smaller one near the military post.

The army’s Military Police division, which examines the conduct of Israeli soldiers, opened an investigation into the shooting on Wednesday night.

But Military Police investigations rarely result in soldiers being brought to court, and even many of those charged do not face serious consequences. In a recent indictment, a soldier found to have wrongfully killed a Palestinian and wounded another near Bethlehem was handed three months’ community service.

“I want what we deserve. I want that soldier prosecuted. I’ll stay after him for months with lawyers, filing cases, whatever it takes. It’s our right,” al-Alaama said.

In any case, it is Muayyad who will likely bear the immediate consequence of the shooting — his permit to work in Israel is likely to be revoked due to his son’s death. Israel does so as a matter of policy, saying that relatives of those shot in confrontations with Israeli forces are more likely to commit terror attacks as an act of vengeance.

“I expect it to happen, for them to take the permit. But I would never do anything. I have my God, and he will take care of this criminal,” al-Alaama said, referring to the soldier who shot his son.

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