Soldier shoots and kills Muhammad Suliman (16) after he threw stones in Silwad

| B’Tselem |

On Friday, 24 June 2022, at around 4:30 P.M., a group of 15 to 20 Palestinian teens gathered in an open field southwest of the town of Silwad in Ramallah District. They stood about 500 meters from a military watchtower that lies on the outskirts of the town. Some of the teens threw stones at Israeli vehicles driving along the main road. 

At around 5:00 P.M., two military jeeps drove up to the watchtower. Four soldiers got out, stood by the jeeps and watched the teens. After about 15 minutes, a soldier emerged from hiding behind the wall of a local farm and fired four shots towards three or four of the teens, who were about 50 meters away from him. Among them was Muhammad Suliman (16). The teens were not hit and fled the scene, and the soldier went back to lying in ambush.

A few minutes later, Muhammad and two of his friends, one 14 years old and the other 15, started throwing stones at the soldier and towards Route 60, in order to provoke the soldiers and lure them out of hiding. After several failed attempts, the teens moved away from the farm and from the road and lit a bonfire.

At around 6:30 P.M., Muhamad and one of his friends went over to the where the soldiers were lying in wait and again tried to lure them out. They sat down about 50 meters from the road and from the soldiers’ hiding place. When they noticed the jeeps were about to drive towards them, Muhammad got up and threw a stone at the hiding place. At that moment, four soldiers emerged from hiding and headed quickly towards him and his friend. As they advanced, one of the soldiers fired two or three live shots from about 50 meters away. One of them hit Muhammad in the neck and he fell down. Muhammad’s friend escaped and the soldiers went over to Muhammad, who was lying face down on the ground, and stood by him. After a few minutes, more soldiers arrived and stood around Muhamad, who was lying silent and motionless.

Meanwhile, Muhammad’s friends and other residents of Silwan gathered some way away from the spot, as they feared the soldiers. Israeli ambulances arrived a few minutes later and the medical crew began treating Muhammad. After about an hour, the crew transferred Muhammad to an Israeli ambulance. At around 9:30 P.M., about two hours after he was first put inside, the ambulance drove away with Muhammad. At around 2:00 A.M., Muhammad’s parents learned from social media that their son had been killed.

Israel held the Muhammads’ body for five days, until 1:00 A.M. on 30 June 2022, during which time the family did not know when they would be able to part from their son and lay him to rest. The body was handed over to forensic analysis by the Palestinian Authority and buried in Silwad later that morning, at 10:00 A.M.

In the first seven months of 2022, Israeli forces shot and killed 15 Palestinian minors in the West Bank. Israel held three of the bodies for several days before returning them to their families. Since 2016, it has been holding the bodies of seven Palestinian minors from the West Bank.

The killing of Muhammad Suliman is a direct result of the wanton, unlawful open-fire policy that Israel employs in the West Bank, which is authorized by the top military command and the political echelon and backed by the justice system. It is clear that Muhammad and his friends did not endanger the lives of the armed, well-protected soldiers, and that there was no justification to use live fire, certainly not lethally. Such killings are a regular occurrence in the West Bank, but as they are broadly backed, no one will be held accountable – not for the killing of 15 minors so far in 2022, nor for the killings yet to come.

Muhammad’s father, ‘Abdallah Suliman (50), a father of six, spoke with B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 26 June 2022, before the body was returned. In his testimony, described the killing of his son and the anguish Israel caused the family by holding the body:

Muhammad left home in the afternoon without us noticing. At around 6:30 P.M., a neighbor called and said she’d heard he’d been injured by soldiers. We quickly called around his friends and found out he’d been shot by soldiers while they were throwing stones near Route 60, southwest of the village, and that the soldiers had taken him away. At first, we were told he’d been hit in the leg by a rubber bullet.

At around 7:00 P.M., someone from the village called and told us that Muhammad had been hit in the chest by a rubber bullet. We were very worried and immediately called around the officials in the village, the Palestinian DCO and all the first aid centers we know to find out what happened. We didn’t know what state Muhammad was in and no one could tell us, because he was being held by the military and treated by Israeli paramedics, and no one could get close to him. Later that night, we learned he’d been taken somewhere unknown by an Israeli ambulance, and we grew more and more worried. We were afraid he was under arrest while injured. He was only a teenager and shouldn’t have to deal with such things.

At around midnight, Qadura Fares, the former minister who now heads the Palestinian Prisoners Club, came over. He contacted all the official parties and informed us Muhammad had been hit in the face and taken to hospital in Israel. From that moment on, my wife didn’t stop crying and hitting her face with her hands. I tried to calm her down. It’s only been two months since the military arrested our second son, Ahmad (21), and now we received terrible news again.

A lot of village residents came over, worrying about Muhammad. Everyone loved him. We spent the whole night in uncertainty. We didn’t know what to expect. Only around 2:00 A.M., my son Salah (24) read on social media that Muhammad had been killed. It hit us like a bolt of lightning. My wife went into severe shock.

We asked for the body and were told by the Palestinian DCO that Israel would return it the next day, at 8:00 A.M. The village ambulance waited at the appointed place from 8:00 A.M. until the afternoon, but the Israelis didn’t keep their promise and didn’t bring the body. They’re still delaying. Every day we’re told it will be today, but it doesn’t happen. They’re tormenting us and denying Muhammad’s basic right to a dignified burial. We don’t know what to do – our lives have stopped and we’re hanging in the air. I can’t go to work, and everyone around me has stopped their daily lives so they can be available the moment the body’s returned.

The Israeli forces have disrupted our lives, and only God sees our frayed nerves. Muhammad deserves to be laid to eternal rest just like everyone else. At most, he threw stones. He wasn’t involved in any violent activity that could be a reason for holding on to his body and punishing us. We have no one to trust any more but God – may he give us comfort.