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Child deaths in West Bank hit 10-year high in 2016: Report

Defence for Children International have accused Israeli security forces of employing a 'shoot-to-kill' policy in the West Bank
Palestinian protestors stand facing the Israeli settlement of Qadumim (Kedumim) during clashes with Israeli security forces (AFP)

A report says that 2016 was the deadliest year in the past decade for Palestinian children in the West Bank, with 32 killed by Israeli security services.

Defence for Children International, an NGO focusing on children's rights, warned that Israeli police and soldiers were not being held accountable for lethal attacks on youths in the West Bank, and criticised the use of firearms against demonstrations and stone-throwers.

Out of the 32 killed, 19 were between the ages of 16 and 17, while 13 were between 13- and 15-years old. This compares with 30 killed in 2015.

Eighty three children were also injured in 2016.

“Israeli forces have increasingly used excessive force to squash demonstrations since 2014,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability programme director at the DCIP.

“Intentional lethal force now appears to be routinely used by Israeli forces, even in unjustified situations, with no accountability, putting more and more children at risk.” Speaking to Al-Jazeera, he accused Israeli forces of employing a "shoot-to-kill policy."

Faris al-Bayed, 15, died 23 December after being shot with a rubber-coated metal bullet by Israeli forces and more than two months in a coma. (Photo: al-Bayed family)

The report cited the death of 15-year old Faris Atta al-Bayed, who was shot by a rubber-coated bullet during clashes at the entrance to the Jalazoun refugee camp, north of Ramallah on 15 October.

Doctors at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah said that the bullet had pierced the front of the teen's head and lodged in his brain. Despite removing the bullet, he died after 69 days in a coma.

“I looked at Faris and saw him moving his head so fast ... and falling to the ground, with his face covered in blood,” a witness to the shooting told DCIP. “I realised he had been shot in the head.”

“I looked at Faris and saw him moving his head so fast ... and falling to the ground, with his face covered in blood”

Unrest in the West Bank has been on the rise since the start of demonstrations against perceived moves by Israeli activists to change the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

A wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks erupted in October 2015: while the violence has largely subsided, attacks still happen sporadically.

Since October 2015, Israeli soldiers have killed at least 244 Palestinians, including unarmed demonstrators.

Ahmad Zeidani, 17, was shot dead by Israeli forces on 18 December. (Photo: Zeidani family)

The killing of 21-year old Fatal al-Sharif in March last year - apparently while lying on the floor bleeding in the West Bank city of Hebron - provoked a storm of controversy in Israel about the willingness of Israeli soldiers to use lethal force. On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers Elon Azaria was convicted of manslaughter for the shooting, with judges concluding that Azaria had killed Sharif "without reason"

Thirty-six Israelis have also been killed in stabbing and shooting attacks by Palestinians.

Israeli security forces have been accused of excessive force, though authorities say officers act appropriately to protect themselves and civilians.

Read: Israeli army accused of West Bank 'shoot to cripple' campaign

Most of the attacks were by lone-wolf assailants, many of them young people, including teenagers. Israel's military has said it believes a significant number of them were essentially on suicide missions.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday that they had documented more than 150 cases since October 2015 in which Israeli forces had fatally shot Palestinian children and adults. They added that "video footage and/or witness accounts raise serious questions about the necessity of the use of lethal force".

They also warned that some Israeli officials had been "encouraging" soldiers and police to kill Palestinians even when they were no longer a threat.

They called on the government to "issue strong public and private admonitions to intentionally use lethal force only when strictly necessary to protect life."

"Video footage and/or witness accounts raise serious questions about the necessity of the use of lethal force"

Last year, Middle East Eye reported on an alleged policy of "shoot-to-cripple" being used by Israeli soldiers against youths in the West Bank.

According to a report by the BADIL Resource Centre, during raids on the Dheisha refugee camp in 2016, 18 youth aged between 14 and 27 were shot in their legs.

Palestinians taking part in demonstrations reported that the leader of the Israeli raids - a man nicknamed "Captain Nidal" - had told them he would "cripple half of you and let the other half push your wheelchairs”.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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