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'What was her crime?' Agony as Palestine mourns another child killed by Israel

Shortly after Israeli forces raided the city of Jenin on Sunday, a 15-year-old girl was found dead on her roof, riddled with bullet wounds
Mourners react as they attend the funeral of Palestinian Jana Zakarneh in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, 12 December 2022 (Reuters)
By Leila Warah in Jenin, occupied Palestine

Jana Majdi Zakarneh, a 15-year-old Palestinian, was on the roof in her pyjamas, playing with her cat on Sunday evening, when Israeli forces shot her multiple times, twice in the face. 

The following day, the shock of Jana's death can be felt in Jenin city, where she was killed. Mourners sat on plastic chairs outside her funeral service in grim silence.

The voice of her aunt, Hanan Said Zakarneh, rang out, "What did this child do to be shot this way?"

"What was her crime?" she asked, holding back tears. 

"She was young. She spent almost all of her time with her parents, and doesn't come and go from the house," Hanan told Middle East Eye, explaining that both Jana's parents have disabilities and require full-time care and support.

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Jana, who was set to turn 16 at the end of this month, looked after them. 

"My sister only had her daughter, who is now a martyr, and a boy who is still young," said Hanan.

'Nobody knew what to do'

That Sunday evening the sound of gunfire blared across the neighbourhood, as Israeli forces conducted a raid, but nobody immediately realised that Jana had been shot.

'When I got there, she was on the floor, bleeding from what seemed like everywhere'

-Majid Zarkaneh, uncle

The raid started at around 9.30pm, and about 20 minutes after the soldiers withdrew, Jana's body was found. 

Her uncle, Majid Zakarneh, told MEE that her father and younger brother, 13, were the ones to find her dead on the roof after the family noticed her absence and went looking for her. 

"She was up on the roof sitting with her cat. She went up there after the shootings started, but she wasn't anywhere near the soldiers," said Majid.

He said that four live bullets had hit her, two in the face, one in the neck, and one in the shoulder.

"The family noticed her absence and called for her, but she didn't answer. When I got there, she was on the floor, bleeding from what seemed like everywhere," Majid said.

"There was a lot of blood on the floor. Nobody knew what to do.

"My sister doesn't even understand her daughter has died. She is in a different world and can't comprehend what is happening around her."

The Palestinian health ministry announced her death after midnight on Monday, saying she was killed by a bullet to the head fired by Israeli forces during a raid on the city of Jenin. 

No place to hide

Shortly after the raid on al-Bayadir neighbourhood started, clashes broke out between armed Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces raided a number of homes in the area, and arrested three Palestinians. 

After the arrests, clashes intensified between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli forces, Saleem al-Subar, a local activist in Jenin, told MEE.

"The soldiers attacked while civilians were still in the streets, including families with their children," Subar said.

"We just started to hear shootings everywhere, and people were confused and didn't know what to do. They began to run and hide because they didn't know where the soldiers were shooting from."

Majid told MEE that bullet casings were found in a neighbouring house, belonging to one of the men Israeli forces arrested. He believes that this is the house that Jana was shot from with a sniper.

The Israeli military released a statement on Monday afternoon saying, "Following a preliminary investigation, it was found that there is indeed a high probability that the girl who was killed was hit by an accidental shot fired at armed men on a roof in the area, from which shots were fired at the forces.

The Israeli army meanwhile said, "The IDF and its commanders regret any harm to uninvolved civilians, including those who are in a combat environment and in close proximity to armed terrorists during exchanges of fire."

Still, locals in Jenin and across the occupied West Bank have expressed that they do not feel safe. 

"Even if you hide inside your own house, it is not safe. Look at Jana, she was in her home, and she was killed. So even when people run, they don't know if they will survive," Subar said.

"Where are people supposed to go if even in their own homes they do not feel safe? Where is the world? Why don't they defend us?"

'Every day, a new martyr'

Jana is the 59th Palestinian and the 15th child to be killed by Israeli forces in the Palestinian city of Jenin this year. 

Across the West Bank, Jana is the 166th Palestinian and the 39th minor to be killed by Israeli forces this year, according to Wafa

'Our youths are killed here, and nobody asks about them. After they die, only their parents remember them'
- Hanan Zakarneh, aunt

2022 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians since the UN began recording fatalities in 2005. 

The Israeli military has been conducting almost nightly raids in the West Bank to "thwart terror".

On the same night that Jana was killed, three Palestinians were arrested in Jenin and another 15 Palestinians in other raids across the occupied West Bank. 

"Every day, there is a new martyr here. Some days we have one, sometimes two, sometimes even three. Nobody asks what Israel is doing here," said Subar. 

Human rights groups have condemned Israel's shoot-to-kill" policy, as the rate of Palestinians, who pose no threat, killed by Israeli soldiers increases. This can be seen Jana's case, who was shot four times with fatal results. 

Although Jana's uncle hopes for his niece to have justice and to "find and arrest the person who did this to her", he has little hope of finding any integrity in Israel's criminal justice courts. 

"We know this will never happen because the Israelis have the international community's green light and don't care about Palestinian lives," he said.

Similarly, Jana's aunt's parting words to MEE were to tell the world "to take care of the Palestinian people, our youths are killed here, and nobody asks about them".

"After they die, only their parents keep remembering them."

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

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