Palestinian village is focus of Israeli crackdown

By Ben Lynfield, August 7, 2008
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Youssef Amireh should still be alive, his father insists.

The 17-year-old was shot in the head by Israeli border police who fired rubber-coated metal bullets during a protest last week and died of his wounds at a hospital in Ramallah on Monday.

He is the second Palestinian fatality within a week in violence that both sides warn will escalate as protests continue against the building of the separation barrier on land confiscated from this village of about 5,000.

Israeli border police spokesman Moshe Pinchy says forces are facing an increase in stone-throwing, and that Palestinians have been warned to stay away from protests.

 

Each side accuses the other of fuelling the violence, although Palestinian casualties outnumber those of the Israeli forces. The Palestinians, who do not use firearms but do throw stones, are convinced that they are on the receiving end of an Israeli crackdown to break their resistance with overwhelming force - after three days of curfew last month failed to stop it.

Mr Pinchy, for his part, says it is forbidden for forces to shoot stone-throwers in the head and that the policemen suspected in the killing of a ten-year-old boy, Ahmed Musa, in Ni'ilin last week, is currently under investigation.

He says there are clear guidelines on the amount of force that can be used and that it increases in proportion to the violence used by Palestinians.

"The Palestinians are bringing their women and children to the demonstrations to use as human shields," he says. "Whoever is there is at their own responsibility."

"He was a boy, how could they shoot him in the head?" Ahmed Amireh asks the circle of mourners gathered at his house. A relative offers the visitors dates, the traditional Palestinian mourning food, and then plastic cups of watery black coffee.

"He was my right hand. He would work and make money to support his sisters. Who will give them money now?" Amireh asks.

In Ni'ilin, a farming village that depends heavily for its livelihood on olive trees - many of which will now be on the other side of the barrier - green flags of Hamas and yellow banners of Fatah line the main road.
Down an unpaved path, the stone house where Youssef's female relatives mourn separately has a new sign hung at its entry: "Remember God."

There are conflicting Palestinian accounts of whether Youssef Amireh had joined protests that erupted last Tuesday after the funeral of Ahmed Musa.

"They could have arrested him," Mr Amireh insists of his son. Mr Pinchy declines to discuss details of Youssef's shooting beyond saying that "Anyone who is in an area of demonstrations is there on his own responsibility".

A border policeman was wounded in the eye by a stone the same day the child was killed.

At the Amireh house, a youth says they answer the mosque calls to "go to the land" for demonstrations and the chanting of slogans against the barrier begins - but don't carry stones.

He shows an indentation in the back of his head that he says is from a rubber bullet fired in the same incident that Youssef was shot. All told, he says he has been wounded six times by rubber coated metal bullets.

"Two months ago they fired at the legs, today it's at the head," he says, insisting that the youth only throw stones in response to the soldiers.

Mr Pinchy says that "stones also kill. When the policeman's life is in danger there is a procedure for self-defence.

"I am not saying [fire at] the head, but he should do everything to neutralise the assailant."

    Last updated: 7:47pm, August 7 2008