“I heard shooting, I went out and saw that my husband’s whole shirt was covered in blood. He didn’t notice that he was wounded because he was focused on Hamoudi, who had been shot in the head. When I saw him, I said: ‘Hamoudi’s gone.’”
These were the words of Marwa Tamimi, the mother of 2-year-old Mohammed Tamimi, nicknamed Hamoudi, who was fatally wounded last Thursday by Israeli sniper fire while he was in the car with his father, Haitham, at the entrance to their family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. The toddler died from his wounds on Monday, and on Tuesday hundreds took part in his funeral. According to the human rights group B’Tselem, Tamimi is the 150th Palestinian to have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers since the start of this year.
Immediately after the shooting, Israeli military sources claimed that the boy and his father were hit by Palestinian gunfire aimed at a nearby army guard tower. Shortly after, however, the IDF Spokesperson admitted that the two were hit by shots fired by Israeli soldiers, who were allegedly responding to shooting at the guard tower. After this admission, the army stated that it “regrets harming those not involved and works to prevent incidents of this type,” and that it was a case of “misidentification” after “two terrorists fired for several minutes in the direction of the Neve Tzuf [Halamish] settlement.”
The residents of Nabi Saleh rejected the army’s version of events, with eyewitnesses telling +972 that the shooting at the Tamimi family was not preceded by any shooting from Palestinians.
Even after the IDF admitted that its soldiers had shot at the Tamimis, Israeli media outlets attempted to minimize the army’s responsibility for the toddler’s killing. Ynet wrote that Tamimi “was mistakenly shot by IDF forces who responded to terrorist fire,” while Walla reported on the death of “the toddler who was apparently hit by IDF gunfire.”
Mohammed’s body was brought from the hospital in Ramallah to the family’s home in Nabi Saleh on Tuesday morning, and the funeral procession began from there to the village’s mosque and cemetery. “I demand justice,” said a tearful Marwa. “Human rights and children’s rights organizations must deal with this case. The crime of killing Palestinian children must be stopped. We will go all the way to the International Court of Justice.”
The mother held the body of her son for a long time, struggling to be separated from him. The father, Haitham, arrived at the funeral with his hand still bandaged, after being released from the hospital in Ramallah.
‘Why must I see my son be killed when he steps out the front door?’
The family’s home stands on open land at the entrance to the village. Two hundred meters away is an Israeli military guard post and an iron gate, which the army often uses when it wants to block Palestinians from entering or leaving Nabi Saleh, or when checking vehicles as they exit. According to Marwa, this is not the first time her house has come under fire from soldiers, because of its location at the village entrance.
Marwa explained that on the day of the shooting, she and her husband had been preparing to go to her sister’s birthday celebrations in the neighboring village. “I went into the house for a moment, while he [Haitham] started the engine to move the car,” she said. Then, she heard the shots that hit her husband and son.
Israeli soldiers then arrived to treat Mohammed, and took him to a nearby settlement. “I wanted to get to my son, but a soldier pointed his gun at me and threatened to kill me,” recounted Marwa. “I didn’t get to the hospital until the early morning.”
Mohammed, Marwa said, “loved to play and we all loved him. Why must I see my son be killed when he steps out of the front door? Why am I unable to keep him safe?”
Bilal Tamimi, a resident of the village and a photographer, told +972 that he didn’t hear any gunfire before the shots that killed Mohammed. “When I heard the shots, I stood up and saw an army jeep chasing a car. Before that I didn’t hear anything,” he said. According to Bilal, even before the shooting there were soldiers stationed at the village entrance, stopping vehicles as they entered.
After the shooting, Bilal continued, many Israeli soldiers raided the village. He himself went up to the roof to take pictures, and was shot in the hand by a soldier. “They shot me from a distance of 50 meters,” he explained. “I was taken to hospital, where I was kept for three days because I needed surgery.”
During the funeral, too, soldiers entered Nabi Saleh and positioned themselves on the roof of one of the houses. After the funeral, young people in the village began confronting them. Soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets from between houses. They also used live fire, hitting a 15-year-old boy in the stomach, who was evacuated to a hospital in Ramallah to be operated on. As several women protested the army’s incursion, one of the soldiers hit a resident in the head with the butt of a rifle; she was also hospitalized.
A cruel and growing list
Nabi Saleh has a population of 550, and is located near Ramallah, opposite the Israeli settlement of Halamish which was built on the village’s land. Since 2009, the village has waged a persistent struggle against the settlement’s takeover of their agricultural lands and its water spring. Ten Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the village over the years — eight of them local residents, two from outside — and hundreds were arrested and wounded, even after the mass weekly demonstrations ended in 2017.
The Tamimi family, to which almost all the village’s residents belong, made international headlines in December 2017 when the teenager Ahed Tamimi slapped a soldier who entered the front yard of her family’s home — about an hour after soldiers had shot and wounded her 15-year-old cousin, also named Mohammed, in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet. Ahed and her mother, Nariman, who livestreamed the incident on social media, were arrested and sentenced to eight months in military prison.
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In 2011, Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister out of a grenade launcher directly at the face of Mustafa Tamimi from close range, killing him. The army’s investigation was closed without the soldier facing any punishment, despite the incident being documented on camera. In the decision to close the case, the army stated that the shooting “was carried out in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations, and there was no offense involved.” Later, in a civil lawsuit, the Tamimis were required to pay legal expenses to the state. “They gave permission for the soldiers to kill, and no one will be sentenced for it,” said Mona, a relative, at the time.
In 2018, soldiers shot and killed 21-year-old Izz ad-Din Tamimi when the army entered the village to make arrests. According to evidence collected at the time by Local Call and +972, Tamimi was shot twice, in his chest and neck, from a distance of about 50 meters. The IDF Spokesman said that no soldier was wounded and that the incident would be investigated.
In 2021, soldiers shot dead 17-year-old Mohammed (a third cousin by the same name). There had been no protest or confrontations in the area before the army entered the center of the village and, according to eyewitness testimony, the soldiers were not in danger when they shot Mohammed from a distance of around 20 meters. Immediately after the shooting, they left the scene without providing any medical treatment.
In October 2022, soldiers shot and killed 19-year-old Qusai Tamimi, after he and several other young Palestinians had set fire to tires near the entrance to the village in protest of army killings in Nablus that day. Now, young Hamoudi Tamimi joins this cruel and growing list.
A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.