Update: Palestinian Youth Shot by Israeli Settler Threatened with Arrest as Settler Sits at Home
Ibrahim Muhammad Biss’s curiosity was slightly piqued when a car driving slowly along Route 60 came to a halt in front of him and his group of friends at the entrance to the Aroub refugee camp just north of Beit Ommar on a Thursday in early June. 16-year- old Ibrahim, who lives in the camp, was waiting for traffic to pass so he could cross the street to enter the Aroub Agricultural College. Assuming the driver was stopping to ask the boys for directions, Ibrahim watched as the middle-aged man lowered the window.
Instead of an inquiring foreigner, Ibrahim found himself facing an Israeli settler pointing a handgun at him and his friends. The settler opened fire on the boys, shooting one boy, also 16, in the leg before shooting Ibrahim in the back, then shooting the first boy again as he lay on the ground. Then he sped away.
“We all started running away when he started shooting, and I didn’t even know that I had been shot,” said Ibrahim in an interview at his home two months after the incident, “It was only after we stopped and my friends checked me to see if I was hurt that I realized the settler had shot me in my lower back.”
Ibrahim and the other injured boy, Moataz, were taken to the camp’s only clinic but found it closed, so they were taken to Al-Ahali Hospital in Hebron. Ibrahim recalled that he lost consciousness just before entering the hospital, afraid he was going to lose his life to a settler clearly intent on killing innocent teenagers.
Getting shot, however, was not the end of Ibrahim’s nightmare.
After undergoing surgery at Al-Ahali Hospital, Ibrahim was taken to an Israeli police station in nearby settlement, Kiryat Arba. At the station, Ibrahim was told that the settler had turned himself in but claimed that he had fired his weapon in response to the boys throwing stones at cars on the road – a claim that is hard to believe even to someone who was not at the scene, as the boys were waiting right next to an Israeli guard tower. Nonetheless, the Israeli police threatened to arrest Ibrahim when he refused to admit that he and his friends had thrown any stones. The Israeli investigator told him that their cameras at the entrance to Aroub would prove who was guilty.
After several hours at the police station, a different investigator finally proposed a “compromise” telling Ibrahim and his father that they could admit to wrongdoing, pay 1,500 shekels and be allowed to leave. Fearing for his son’s health, Ibrahim’s father was pressured into paying the money and taking his son back to the hospital.
In a bizarre change of face, Israeli authorities later called the families of Ibrahim and Moataz offering to have them transported to Israeli hospitals. Ibrahim believes this was because the police had seen in the camera footage that they had never thrown any stones and did not deserve to be fined or arrested, let alone shot. The boys were not transferred, as the Palestinian doctors advised against it, believing their condition to be too serious to undergo such a move.
What happened to the murderous settler? He had his gun taken away and was placed in temporary house arrest. In the Israeli justice system, trying to kill Palestinians gets you put in time-out.
Imagine that the situation was reversed; if the gunman was a Palestinian firing on a group of settler teenagers. Sadly, it is not at all unreasonable to predict that the Palestinian would be jailed for years (if not shot and killed by retaliating settlers), his village or town would most likely be invaded by Israeli military forces, and other Palestinians who were not at all involved in the incident would be injured or killed in resulting clashes. This is the reality.
Ibrahim was released from the hospital eight days later. Moataz was hospitalized for a month and continues to return for weekly medical checks.
Although Ibrahim’s pain has subsided significantly, the memory of the incident has not. He still finds it hard to sleep at night and is not convinced that this story is over for him. He continues to carry the fear of arrest with him every day, unconvinced that even proven innocence is not enough to escape the lunatic behavior of the Israeli police.