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Graffiti on a fence where Muhammad Tamimi was wounded by soldiers. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 25 July 2021
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Israeli soldiers enter a-Nabi Saleh and fatally shoot Muhammad Tamimi (17) in ensuing confrontation

Muhammad Tamimi. Photo courtesy of family
Muhammad Tamimi. Photo courtesy of family

On Friday, 23 July 2021, at around 4:00 P.M., four soldiers entered a-Nabi Saleh, a village in Ramallah District, and began advancing on its streets. As they were making their way towards the center of the village, several youths and young men began throwing stones at them from among the houses. The soldiers gave chase, accompanied by a military jeep. About 20 more youths and young men joined the confrontation and threw stones at the soldiers, who fired live bullets and hurled tear gas canisters and stun grenades at them. At around 5:00 P.M., after the soldiers descended from a rooftop in the center of the village, they began retreating towards its western exit, shielding themselves from the stone-throwing behind a jeep and firing live shots in the air and at the stone-throwers on the other side of the jeep. The gunfire hit a car belonging to one of the residents.

After several minutes, the soldiers reached a barricade set up by the young men on the road while intense stone-throwing continued, as they sheltered behind the armored jeep, and their lives were not in danger. One of the soldiers opened live fire, hitting Muhammad Tamimi (17) in the back and buttocks from about 30 meters away. After the soldiers drew back, Tamimi was taken by private car to a hospital in Salfit, where he succumbed to his wounds several hours later.

From 2009 to 2017, weekly protests were held in the village of a-Nabi Saleh, which is home to some 600 residents, against settler takeover of village land and a nearby spring. Since then, protests have been held irregularly. Muhammad Tamimi is the fifth person killed in the last decade during demonstrations and clashes in the village. He was preceded by 'Iz a-Din Tamimi in 2018, Sabaa 'Obeid in 2017, Rushdi a-Tamimi in 2012, and Mustafa Tamimi in 2011.

As in the case of the four other Palestinians killed in the village, the shooting at 17-year-old Tamimi's back was carried out although he did not pose any threat to the soldiers’ lives. Live fire is permitted only when there is an imminent risk to life, and even then, only when the danger cannot be averted by other, less lethal means. Therefore, this shooting was unlawful and unjustifiable. In the present case, the incident that led to the killing started with an unexplained raid by the soldiers into the village, the entire purpose of which appeared to be provocation. According to media reports, an MPIU investigation has been launched. Yet years of experience show that it is bound to be closed, as its purpose is not to uncover the truth or hold the perpetrators accountable but rather to act as a fig leaf for the military law enforcement's whitewash system.

A view from the area where the soldiers were firing to the spot where Muhammad Tamimi was hit. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 25 July 2021
A view from the area where the soldiers were firing to the spot where Muhammad Tamimi was hit. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 25 July 2021

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 25 July 2021, 'A.A. (22), a resident of a-Nabi Saleh, described what happened after the soldiers entered the village:

I saw four soldiers walking towards the plaza in the village center on the main road passing through the village center. There were several teens around Iyad Tamimi's house who were throwing stones at the soldiers. The soldiers returned to the village's western entrance, and I joined the youths on a road that bypassed the soldiers because I was afraid that they wouldn't let me pass. A military jeep joined the soldiers near the village entrance. There were scattered clashes between the soldiers and the youths, who were no more than 10. The soldiers fired a few live rounds to disperse them and later also tear gas canisters. After several minutes of confrontation, the soldiers and the jeep returned towards the village center. On the way, stones were thrown at them from the groves and near the houses above the road. The soldiers responded by firing stun grenades, until they reached the plaza in the village center, where they went up to the roof of a building under construction. The clashes in the village center lasted about 30 to 40 minutes. The soldiers threw stun grenades and tear gas canisters and fired live rounds.

At around 5:00, the soldiers began to retreat while taking cover behind the jeep from the many stones thrown at them. When they were near Iyad Tamimi's house, they started firing intense live fire and slowly advancing. Because of the number of stones thrown at them, the soldiers moved away from the jeep and withdrew to a dirt road leading to a military post east of the village. Meanwhile, they covered for themselves with direct fire. I think that was when Muhammad Tamimi was hurt. Until that moment, I hadn't seen him at all. The jeep continued driving slowly towards the western entrance as the teens continued throwing stones at it.

I reached the steps on the southern side of Iyad Tamimi's house. Muhammad was there, wounded. I asked him what happened, but he didn't answer me and only held my hand and couldn't speak. He put his hands over his belly and leaned back against the wall. He couldn't get up or talk. He was bleeding from the abdomen and pelvis. The jeep was only a few meters away from us, and they could see us. I started yelling, "Come, there's a wounded person here. Muhammad's been hit." Two guys joined me. One of the soldiers opened the jeep door a little and fired two shots at us, but we hid behind the corner of the stairs. The jeep continued to retreat.

Athir Tamimi (27), a resident of a-Nabi Saleh, watched the soldiers entering the village from the windows of her home above the road and the clashes that ensued. In a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 26 July 2021, she recounted what happened during the soldiers' withdrawal from the village:

I saw soldiers about 30 meters away from my window, shielding themselves behind the jeep and walking very slowly. They kept firing live bullets towards the young men in the eastern courtyard of Iyad Tamimi's house or at his land overlooking the road. During the clashes that took place at the village plaza before, Muhammad Tamimi and one or two other youths blocked the road in front of our house with containers and stones in case the soldiers would come back the same way they came.

Suddenly, while the soldiers were firing live fire, I saw Muhammad fall on his behind near one of the containers, put his hands over his belly and kneel in a hunched crouch. I started shouting to the young guys, "Muhammad's been hit, Muhammad's been hit." But because of the commotion from the shooting and the massive stone-throwing, no one heard me. I was very worried that the soldiers would arrest him even though he was injured. Then I saw one of the soldiers trying to reach him. I don't know if it was to arrest him or check on him. Because of the intensity of the stone-throwing, the soldier passed him and shielded himself behind the wall of Iyad Tamimi's house. The other soldiers called him to come back, and he very quickly did. They retreated on a dirt road behind my house towards the watchtower as they continued shooting live rounds. I think one of them was stationed near the corner of the house and fired live rounds at the stone-throwers near Iyad's house to secure the other soldiers' retreat.

The military jeep advanced while removing the obstacles in its way and a barrage of stones hit it. One of the soldiers tried to open the jeep's back door but couldn't because of the stones. The jeep drove on and passed Muhammad. Muhammad recovered and stood up with his hands on his belly and walked towards the southern entrance to Iyad's house, the shelter closest to him, as he passed the jeep. He went up the stairs, and I didn’t see him anymore. After the soldiers withdrew, the young men took Muhammad to a nearby minibus, and a few guys went with him. After 50 meters, the minibus broke down, and I found out that Muhammad was taken by private car to a hospital in Salfit. At 10:00 P.M., we learned that he was dead.

 

In a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 15 August 2021, Muhammad's mother, Baraah Bakri (40), described the killing of her son:

מוחמד תמימי. התמונה באדיבות המשפחה
Muhammad Tamimi. Photo courtesy of family

My family is originally from a-Nabi Saleh, but I grew up in my grandfather's house in Jordan. I married a relative from Deir Nizam, Munir Tamimi, in 2001. My husband lived with us in Jordan for three years, and he was later deported because he didn't have a visa and went back to the West Bank. Because he has a West Bank ID and I have a Jordanian ID, Israel didn't allow us to reunite and live together in the West Bank. When I had the opportunity to get a visitor permit, I came to a-Nabi Saleh in 2012. Since then, I've stayed in the West Bank without my status being settled. In 2018, we moved to a house owned by my grandfather in the village of a-Nabi Saleh. To this day, I don't have an ID card, and I can't leave West Bank because Israel won't allow me to return.

On the day Muhammad was martyred, at 4:30 P.M., my little one, 'Omar, came from behind the house frightened and said, "Mom, military. Mom, military." I looked out from the front of the porch and saw four soldiers and a military jeep in the intersection in front of the house. The four soldiers were firing tear gas canisters in every direction, including at our house. One of the canisters landed near the kitchen window, and another landed in the field above the house. Muhammad and his brother Mustafa (10) went down. I heard Muhammad saying to the soldiers, "Why are you firing gas?" and telling his little brother to somehow put out the tear gas canister. I called them back and brought onion for the tear gas.

Then I saw that Muhammad had gone out along with other children towards the soldiers that had retreated from the area of our house, and they threw stones at them. I heard the sounds of clashes in the plaza in the center of the village and the sounds of live fire, stun grenades and tear gas. After 40 minutes, at 5:00 P.M., I heard three consecutive shots. A few minutes later, my cousin called and told me that Muhammad was hurt. She lives near where he was injured. I didn't believe her, as he only went out shortly before. Then my husband came, and we drove to the hospital in Salfit, where we were told he'd died of his wounds. The next day, we buried him in a large funeral in Deir Nizam.

When I heard that Muhammad had been martyred, I was heartbroken. For 17 years I raised him and watched him become a supportive man. He was like a good friend of mine. We would pass the time in the evenings laughing and playing cards. I consulted with him about everything, big or small. He helped me clean the house and shop. He loved swimming and riding his bike. He was ambitious and humble and wanted to learn a technical profession and work as a maintenance man, like his father. He meant everything to me.