‘The soldiers overreacted to an incident that could have ended without casualties. The establishment automatically backs them up.’
On Tuesday, 22 September 2015, at around 7:45 A.M., Israeli soldiers shot and fatally wounded Hadil al-Hashlamun, 18, at the “Shoter” checkpoint (also known as checkpoint 56). al-Hashlamun used the checkpoint to cross from H1, the part of Hebron that is under Palestinian control to H2, the part of the city that is under Israeli control. She was taken to Shaare Zedek hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries. The hospital spokesperson told the press that al-Hashlamun had been shot in the chest, abdomen and legs.
The military’s account of the incident, as reported in the media, is that “a metal detector went off when the Palestinian woman walked through the checkpoint. The soldiers called on her to stop and fired a few warning rounds toward the ground after she continued”. Then, the soldiers claim, “she pulled out a knife, and that’s when they fired shots at her legs. The soldiers said they opened fire for a second time after the woman tried again to raise the knife”.
B’Tselem’s investigation raises doubts as to the veracity of this description. According to B’Tselem’s information, al-Hashlamun approached the checkpoint from the direction of the neighborhood of Bab a-Zawiya in H1. She was wearing a Niqab, which covers the entire body, and holding a concealed knife. She aroused suspicion among the soldiers and they told her to open her purse. For an unknown reason, al-Hashlamun froze and did not respond to their calls. One soldier shot at the ground, next to her. Fawaz Abu ‘Easheh, a resident of the neighborhood of Tel Rumaidah, who arrived at the scene, thought the young woman did not understand the soldiers’ instructions and tried to help her leave. As she was leaving the checkpoint, with a 1.2 meter metal barrier between her and the soldiers, a soldier called her to stop as he was shooting at the ground next to her, and then at her leg. According to Abu ‘Easheh’s testimony Al-Hashlamum fell, and as she was falling, her right hand was revealed to be holding a knife. She did not get up, but the soldier shot her again, in the other leg, and seconds later in the torso. Some of the incident was caught on camera by an international volunteer who was at the scene.
The circumstances of the incident indicate that the soldiers at the checkpoint acted disproportionately. They did not try to subdue al-Hashlamun and take her into custody without resorting to live fire. The claim that al-Hashlamun tried to stab soldiers, repeated by the media, cannot be reconciled with the fact that there was a metal barrier between her and the soldiers at the time of the shooting. Furthermore, the soldier who opened fire continued shooting after she had been hit in the legs and no longer posed a danger. The military has video documentation of the incident from the checkpoint’s security cameras, and should publish it in if it stands behind the soldiers’ version of events.
The military command’s knee jerk defense of the soldiers, as expressed in the military’s response to the incident, sends soldiers on the ground a clear message that when it comes to using force, including lethal force, against Palestinian civilians – there are very little limitations.