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View to al-Fawar Refugee Camp from the rooftop where Zeid Qaysiyah was shot. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem, 16 May 2020
From the field

Another military incursion into a refugee camp, another teen egregiously killed

On Wednesday morning, 13 May 2020, at around 5:30 A.M., a commercial van bearing Palestinian license plates drove into the Beit Jibrin neighborhood in the eastern section of al-Fawar Refugee Camp, south of Hebron. About ten soldiers got out, and some of them took up positions on rooftops while others walked through the neighborhood. Several dozen young Palestinians, including teenagers, began to throw stones and empty bottles at the soldiers. The soldiers went over to a house to arrest an occupant and when they discovered he was not home, retreated and started walking towards the exit from the camp. The youths continued to throw stones intermittently, and the soldiers responded by hurling stun grenades and firing tear-gas canisters, rubber-coated metal bullets and live rounds in the air.

Zeid Qaysiyah. Photo courtesy of the family

Zeid Qaysiyah (17), who lived in a building located a few hundred meters from Beit Jibrin, was standing outside his house playing with his mobile phone. When the soldiers advanced up to about 100 meters from his home, he went up to the roof, where several of his relatives were watching the unfolding scene. The relatives warned him not to go near the edge of the roof, which is surrounded by a low wall, because an Israeli sniper was standing on a street corner nearby. Zeid did not heed their warnings. As he approached the edge of the roof to see what was going on, an Israeli sniper standing about 100 meters away shot him with a “two-two” (0.22-inch caliber) bullet.

The bullet hit Qaysiyah in the face and he collapsed instantly. He was rushed to hospital in the nearby town of Yatta and pronounced dead a short while later. In the incident, four other residents were injured by live rounds, including one minor. They were all discharged from hospital over the two weeks that followed. The military stated that one soldier had been lightly injured in the incident.

An Israeli sniper shot Zeid Qaysiyah in the head with no apparent reason, despite the fact that he posed no threat to anyone. As always, the IDF spokesperson was quick to announce that the MPIU has launched an investigation. Yet, as B’Tselem has repeatedly warned based on years of experience, these investigations are not aimed at uncovering the truth, but rather serve as part of the MAG Corps’ whitewashing mechanism. This policy enables the lethal, unlawful and immoral shooting of Palestinians to continue unchecked, as no one is held accountable – whether it is the soldiers, their commanders, those who formulate the directives or the officials who cover up the acts.

View from the point where the sniper was positioned to the rooftop where Zeid Qaysiyah was killed (indicated by arrow). Photo by Kareem Jubran, B’Tselem, 16 May 2020

Qaysiyah’s cousin, Hadil al-Fayumi (14), a tenth-grade student, described in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 18 May 2020 what she saw when she went up to the roof of the building at around 5:30 A.M. with her sister, Asil, and her cousin, Namareq:

Hadil al-Fayumi. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 4 June 2020

The clashes were taking place far away. We heard shooting and stun grenades exploding. We stood on the eastern corner of the roof, which overlooks the neighborhood of Beit Jibrin. We didn’t think it was dangerous to stand there. There were other people on rooftops and dozens down below, on the main street.

As time passed, the clashes came closer to us, to the main street of the camp. My uncle 'Aziz came up to the roof, too. The kids down below were following the soldiers and throwing stones at them from the alleyways. Every time, the soldiers stopped, opened fire for a bit and moved on. They were still far away from us.

I saw a soldier with a large rifle kneeling at the street corner, between the shops, about 100 meters away from us. He aimed his rifle at us. I warned my sister Asil and my cousin Namareq and we moved over to the other side of the roof and sat down. Then I saw my cousin Zeid come up to the roof with his brother Jihad (13). Zeid immediately went to the eastern corner of the roof. My uncle told him to get off the roof and warned him not to go near the edge, but Zeid ignored him. Suddenly, I saw Zeid take a step or two backwards and fall on his back. I didn’t understand what happened. Namareq and Jihad ran over to him. I heard Namareq say he was just pulling her leg. I saw blood on his face and just then, he started bleeding massivelyonto the roof. I realized he was injured and started screaming my head off. I was terrified and didn’t go near him. I cried and screamed, and so did Namareq and Asil.

The soldier aimed his rifle at our house and simply opened fire. Zeid had back luck. He didn’t expect the soldier to shoot and kill him. The soldier was far away and Zeid hadn't done anything but look out at the street.

Qaysiyah’s uncle, 'Aziz al-Fayumi (33), went up to the roof shortly before Zeid was shot. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 14 May 2020, he described what happened:

'Aziz al-Fayumi. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 7 June 2020

I yelled at Zeid not to go near the corner of the roof, but he ignored me and went right up to the edge. Suddenly, I saw him fall backwards between the water tanks. His head was bleeding. I was confused and didn’t know what do. I ran downstairs to my brother Samir’s apartment. I woke him up and told him Zeid had been shot in the head. We went up to the roof together. My wife and nieces were still there, screaming. Some people went up to the roof and a few minutes later, they carried Zeid down to the street, covering his head with a shirt. They drove him to the government hospital in Yatta. Because of the massive bleeding from the back of his head and all the blood left on the roof, I realized he was probably dead. We followed them to the hospital by car. When we got there, the doctors had already pronounced him dead.

Zeid’s mother, Barlanet Qaysiyah (46), a divorced mother of four, spoke about what happened that day and about her son in a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 26 May 2020:

Barlanet Qaysiyah. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 4 June 2020

When Zeid was injured, they told me he had been lightly hit in the shoulder, but I didn’t believe it and drove to the hospital. When I got there, I wanted to run inside but my brother, who was standing there, stopped me and asked me to pray for Zeid.

About two hours later, they transferred Zeid’s body to the town of a-Dhahiriyah, where his father lives, to be buried. I went there to say goodbye to him. I couldn’t believe Zeid had been killed like that. He left the house while I was still asleep. If only I'd seen him one last time before he died, maybe I could have stopped him from leaving the house until the soldiers were out of the camp.

Zeid was a quiet, creative boy who loved life. He loved singing in shows put on by friends and relatives. He really wanted to be a musician and was planning to study music in Bethlehem. Whenever he borrowed money, he would promise to pay me back once he became a famous singer. After he was killed, his friends sent me a lot of videos of him singing. At least Zeid left behind a lot of beautiful things that remind me of him, and parted from me while he was enjoying life.

I can't believe he’s dead. I miss him so much and imagine him walking through the door on the holiday, kissing me and wishing me a happy holiday like always.

  • On 19 November 2021, media reports stated that the investigation had been closed without filing an indictment.