Senior US diplomat calls family of Palestinian woman shot dead by IDF

Chief of embassy’s Palestinian Affairs Unit expresses condolences to Ghada Sabateen’s family in rare decision to weigh in on killing of Palestinian who isn’t a US citizen

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

People surround the body of Ghada Sabateen, moments after she was shot dead in the West Bank village of Husan on April 10, 2022. (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Caluse 27a of the copyright law)
People surround the body of Ghada Sabateen, moments after she was shot dead in the West Bank village of Husan on April 10, 2022. (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Caluse 27a of the copyright law)

A senior Biden administration official on Thursday called the family of an unarmed Palestinian woman who was shot dead by Israeli troops earlier this week to offer his condolences.

The call by George Noll, who heads the Palestinian Affairs Unit in the US Embassy to Israel, to the family of Ghada Sabateen represents a relatively rare decision by the administration to weigh in on the killing of a Palestinian who is not an American citizen.

The widowed 47-year-old mother of six did have American relatives, though.

“The United States welcomes Israel’s decision to investigate her shooting death,” the Palestinian Affairs Unit tweeted, in an apparent reference to the IDF’s statement on the Sunday incident, which said it was “clarifying” what had happened. The IDF has yet to announce any formal investigation into the matter.

Asked Thursday for an update on the effort to ascertain the circumstances of Sabateen’s death, an IDF spokesperson issued the same statement the military made four days earlier.

In footage of the incident Sabateen, who was partially blind, could be seen raising her hands as she ran at a makeshift checkpoint in her West Bank village of Husan, when soldiers shot her, causing her to fall.

The army said at the time that Sabateen had approached Israeli soldiers “in a suspicious manner.” A military spokesperson later confirmed that she was unarmed.

“The force opened fire as part of a suspect arrest procedure that included firing into the air. After she did not stop, the soldiers fired at her lower body,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Soldiers administered first aid to Sabateen after which she was rushed by Palestinian medics to a Beit Jala hospital, where she died of blood loss from a torn artery in her thigh.

Speaking to the Haaretz daily, Sabateen’s aunt Mona recalled hearing the gunshots and trying to rush to the scene before being blocked by the soldiers. “I tried to get there, and the soldiers raised their weapons in my direction and told me I couldn’t. I told them she was the daughter of my sister — how can I stay away? I asked a soldier if they had anything on her, and he said no. Had she done something? He said no. The soldier told me, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.'”

“Why did he shoot her? He could have pushed her away and she would have fallen to the ground,” she asked.

A Palestine TV reporter who was in Husan to do a story on the impact of the IDF’s makeshift checkpoints in the middle of the town caught the incident on camera.

Witnesses said Sabateen panicked upon hearing the soldiers fire in the air and began running toward the fence before turning toward the troops.

Her family has denied that Sabateen was trying to end her life as she was dedicated to taking care of her children.

Sabateen was one of 15 Palestinians shot dead by Israeli troops in the West Bank since the beginning of the month.

Sabateen lived with her children and parents in the small village of Husan. She had lived in Jordan for years before returning to the West Bank after her husband’s death, Husan local council member Taha Hamamra told The Times of Israel.

The last time the Biden administration weighed in on the death of a Palestinian was after 78-year-old Omar As’ad, an American citizen, suffered a lethal heart attack after being bound, gagged and abandoned at a construction site in the January cold by Israeli soldiers.

The State Department condemned the incident and demanded an independent investigation.

Two junior officers were removed from their positions over As’ad’s death, and the head of the unit, the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, was formally censured, but no other disciplinary actions were taken following the Israeli probe.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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