Teenage Palestinian girl ‘executed in cold blood’, witnesses say

JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 8 May — Palestinians who witnessed Israeli border police shooting and killing 16-year-old Fatima Afif Abd al-Rahman Hjeiji in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday evening said the girl was “executed in cold blood” and did not pose a lethal threat when she was hit with some 20 bullets outside of the Old City. Israeli police claimed Hjeiji “approached Israeli police and border guards stationed at the site, drew a knife, and tried to attack them while calling out ‘Allah Akbar’ in an attempt to hurt Israeli forces, who determinedly and professionally neutralized her.” However, shortly after the shooting, an eyewitness told Ma‘an that Hjeiji had been standing near Damascus Gate, more than ten meters away from a group of Israeli border guard soldiers, before she was killed. “One of the soldiers started to shout ‘knife! knife!’ and moments after that, about five soldiers opened fire at her from every direction,” he said. Another witness said the girl was first hit in the chest and fell to the ground, “but Israeli soldiers continued to fire at her back.” Witnesses highlighted that a parked car nearby was riddled with bullets, indicating the extent of indiscriminate force used on the teenage girl, allegedly armed with only a knife.

In the wake of the killing, Israeli forces cordoned off the area as bystanders tried to crowd around Hjeiji’s body. Israeli border guards, intelligence officers, and police on horseback deployed heavily in the area and denied locals access to the Old City.  In the ensuing chaos, Israeli forces “haphazardly used pepper spray on Palestinians to keep them away from the girl,” a witness told Ma‘an. A young Palestinian man sustained face burns after Israeli forces attacked him with pepper spray near Damascus Gate, and a nine-year-old child, Mahmoud Abu Sbeih, was badly bruised from falling over after he and a group of teenagers were chased by mounted police officers. An impassioned bystander confronted Israeli police, shouting: “Why do you continue to tell lies? What did that girl do? What did she do? Do you actually want peace?” Israeli police spokespersons had also published a photo of a knife that allegedly seized at the scene, and said a letter written by Hjeiji, in which she bid farewell to her family, was also found. According to Israeli police, the note “included verses from the Quran, and was signed ‘martyr,’” the term used by Palestinians to refer to those who are killed by Israeli forces.

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