Hundreds of Palestinians bury toddler killed by Israeli forces

Mohammed al-Tamimi was the youngest of the 27 Palestinian children killed in Gaza and the West Bank this year.

A mother kisses her shrouded toddler, who is about to be buried
Mohammed al-Tamimi's mother, Marwa, at his funeral on June 6, 2023, in Ramallah, the occupied West Bank [Ahmed Arouri/ Al Jazeera]

Nabi Saleh, Ramallah, the occupied West Bank — Hundreds of Palestinian mourners gathered in Ramallah to bury two-and-a-half-year-old Mohammed al-Tamimi who died in a Tel Aviv hospital after being shot by Israeli forces last week.

The funeral procession on Tuesday started at Ramallah Hospital and wound its way to his home in the village of Nabi Saleh, with the grieving marchers raising Palestinian flags and banners, while also chanting angry slogans denouncing Israel’s crimes against children and the Palestinian people.

His mother, Marwa al-Tamimi, recalled what was a calm evening last Thursday when she was getting ready to attend her niece’s birthday celebrations with her family.

Mohammed had accompanied his father, Haitham, to the car. Moments later she heard the sounds of gunshots.

“I ran outside to see what was going on,” Marwa, 32, told Al Jazeera. “My husband was trying to drive the car to move it away from the direction of the shooting … [which] was direct and heavy on the car.”

“My husband was screaming during the continued shooting while driving, saying, ‘Hamoudi, Hamoudi’ (referring to his little son),” the distraught mother added.

Haitham, 42, was also injured. Mohammed was severely wounded and was pronounced dead five days later.

The al-Tamimi family, which also includes another son – Osama, age eight – lives in Nabi Saleh, which lies west of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, near the Israeli settlement of Neveh Tzuf.

The family said that such shooting at residents and nearby houses occurs frequently.

“I didn’t know what to do. The shooting was directly at them. I saw my husband was wounded, and my child. I was sure he was killed. It was clear because I saw his head was bleeding,” Marwa said.

An injured Haitham continued to drive closer to their house and then ran towards his wife, shouting, “Mohammed is gone … Mohammed is gone…,” she said.

Their neighbours were quick to gather to rush the wounded to a hospital in a nearby settlement. Marwa said a soldier stopped her at a checkpoint and that Mohammed was evacuated by air ambulance.

Four hours later, Marwa managed to go with her relatives to Tel Aviv to see her son, who was transferred to the Israeli Tel-HaShomer Hospital.

“When I arrived at the hospital at 2am, the doctors tried to hide my son’s condition from me, but I told them that I was sure that his condition was very serious,” Marwa said.

Funeral of a killed toddler
Dozens of Palestinians, including his injured father, Haitham, at the funeral of toddler Mohammed al-Tamimi on June 6, 2023, in Nabi Saleh village, Ramallah [Ahmed Arouri/ Al Jazeera]

Mohammed was shot in the head, which ruptured his brain vessels. His death was announced on Monday, and his body was transferred to the Palestine Medical Complex.

The Israeli army said on Monday that soldiers had “responded with live fire” following a shooting attack on Neveh Tzuf.

Two Palestinians were wounded, the army said, adding that it “regrets harm to civilians” and that an investigation was under way.

Bilal al-Tamimi, a relative and a community activist in the area, told Al Jazeera: “Shooting directly at the child and his father confirms that there is an intention to kill.” Israeli forces imposed a closure on the village after the incident until the next morning, he added.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the accountability programme director at Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), said in a statement that “firing live ammunition indiscriminately in a residential neighbourhood where there is no threat to an Israeli soldier’s life is a clear violation of the Israeli military’s own policies.”

“Unlawful killings of Palestinian children have become the norm as Israeli forces become increasingly empowered to use intentional lethal force in situations that are not justified,” he added. “This is a war crime with no consequence.”

Twenty-seven Palestinian children have been killed in 2023. Israeli forces have shot and killed 20 children in the occupied West Bank. Six children were killed in the May military offensive on the Gaza Strip, according to DCIP.

“Under international law, intentional lethal force is only justified in circumstances where a direct threat to life or of serious injury is present,” the DCIP statement said. “However, investigations and evidence collected by DCIP regularly suggest that Israeli forces use lethal force against Palestinian children in circumstances that may amount to extrajudicial or willful killings.”

Source: Al Jazeera