Ramallah asks visiting UN official to blacklist Israel after teen girl’s killing

PA premier Mohammad Shtayyeh calls for international probe along with MK Tibi and others; Lapid expresses sorrow over death, apparently from sniper’s errant fire, backs troops

Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, who was killed during a gun battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin, December 11, 2022. (Social media)
Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, who was killed during a gun battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin, December 11, 2022. (Social media)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh urged a senior United Nations official to place Israel on its blacklist of countries that mistreat children in armed conflict, after a teenage Palestinian girl was killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin that sparked a firefight.

Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, was found dead on a roof in the northern West Bank city early Monday after Israeli troops withdrew from the area following an overnight operation which set off a skirmish with local gunmen. Israel has said she was likely killed accidentally by one of its soldiers.

In a post on Facebook, Shtayyeh offered his condolences to Zakarna’s family and called on UN’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba “to investigate the occupation’s crimes against children and put Israel on the blacklist.”

Gamba is currently on a visit to the West Bank, and Israel. There was no immediate comment from her on the request.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in July that “Israel should be listed” if the situation of children in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza does not improve by next year. An annual UN review of children in armed conflict accused Israel of 2,934 violations against minors there in 2021.

Zakarna was killed after being struck in the head by a bullet, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. She had been on the roof of her home as a fierce gun battle broke out in Jenin following an Israeli operation to arrest three terror suspects. Soldiers returned fire after being shot at by Palestinian gunmen, who also launched explosives at the troops, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF, citing an initial probe of the shooting, said it believed that the girl was likely accidentally shot and killed by a Border Police sniper during the raid.

“Following a preliminary investigation, it was found that there is indeed a high probability that the girl who was killed was hit by an accidental shot fired at armed men on a roof in the area, from which shots were fired at the forces,” the IDF said in a statement.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, second left, visits the office of the al-Haq Human rights organization that was raided by Israel forces, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Without citing sources, Channel 12 reported that the Border Police were furious over the initial probe, complaining that it took a month to find that an IDF soldier likely shot and killed Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May, but less than two hours to blame a Border Police soldier in this case.

Israeli officials have been quick to express regret over the death, while promising to investigate the circumstances of the shooting.

In a statement, Prime Minister Yair Lapid sent his condolences to Zakarna’s family, noting that the probe into her death was ongoing.

“The State of Israel will continue to act to thwart terror and to capture terrorists whenever needed. I trust IDF soldiers and security forces do their utmost to avoid harming uninvolved people during their operations, even the most complicated ones,” he wrote.

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz also expressed sorrow over the death of Zakarna, adding that the raid was aimed at arresting Palestinians suspected of recent shooting attacks and those involved in terror organizations.

“The matter is under investigation and I can assure you of one thing, unlike those who stand by the roads with weapons, stones, and Molotov cocktails, waiting for an opportunity to murder Israeli girls and boys, women, elderly and children, IDF soldiers do not shoot deliberately at uninvolved people,” Gantz said.

In a tweet, Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi decried the killing as a “war crime that required a UN investigation.”

Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, called on “regional and international bodies to immediately investigate the execution” of Zakarna.

According to Zakarna’s uncle, the girl had gone to the roof to look for a pet.

“She went up to fetch her cat and never came back, so her brother went up to look for her; he opened the door and found Jana lying here on her back,” Yasser Mahmoud Zakarna, 28, told AFP.

Describing his niece’s wounds, he said she was “shot with four bullets in deadly spots: in the head, the face, and twice in the chest. They have truly killed childhood.”

After his niece’s death, Zakarna said, “There’s no way to be safe” during the frequent raids.

Palestinians carry the body of Jana Zakarna, 16, during her funeral in the West Bank city of Jenin, December 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A general strike was called in Jenin following the killing, prompting shopkeepers to pull down their shutters. Mourners gathered for the funeral, with olive branches placed on her body which was wrapped in a Palestinian flag.

During Sunday’s raid, three suspects were arrested and handed over to the Shin Bet security service, and an M16 rifle used by the Palestinians was seized, Israel said. Three other Palestinians suffered moderate wounds.

A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group confirmed opening fire and hurling explosives at Israeli troops during the operation. No soldiers were hurt.

Tensions have been high in the West Bank over the past year, with the IDF conducting an ongoing major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks.

The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left more than 165 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

Many deadly clashes have occurred in the Jenin and Nablus area, where Israel’s forces have concentrated most arrest operations.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have also repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, and civilians on the roads.

The IDF has recorded around 300 shooting attacks and attempts against Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank this year, compared to 91 last year.

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