Israeli troops kill teenager near West Bank barrier, Palestinians say

Majdi Mohammed/AP - Palestinians carry the body of 16-year-old Samir Awad during his funeral in Budrus on Jan. 15. The Israeli military shot Awad dead near the West Bank separation barrier on Tuesday, Palestinians said. The Israeli military said he had tried to breach the barrier.

JERUSALEM — Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian teenager Tuesday near Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank, Palestinians said, in the latest of several fatal shootings in recent days near fences in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The shooting at Budrus, west of Ramallah, occurred when a group of high school students, out walking after first-semester final exams, approached the fence that runs outside the village, according to reports from the scene.

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The barrier, built by Israel to keep out suicide bombers and other attackers, slices into the West Bank in several locations to take in Jewish settlements, cutting off some Palestinian villages from their lands. At Budrus, the fence route was changed several years ago, restoring most of the village’s land, after a campaign of nonviolent protest by residents.

An army spokeswoman said that in Tuesday’s incident, several Palestinians damaged the barrier “in an attempt to infiltrate into Israel” and that soldiers following rules of engagement shot at one youth who tried to cross the fence. She said the army has opened an investigation.

Villagers reported that 16-year-old Samir Awad was shot as he fled soldiers who had been hiding in a trench near the fence.

Ayed Morrar, a prominent activist in Budrus, said by telephone that according to Awad’s friends, they were surprised by the soldiers, who first shot the youth in the leg and attempted to arrest him, then fired at him again as he tried to run away. Photos of Awad’s upper body taken by a fieldworker for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem showed wounds in his chest and head.

Morrar said soldiers later used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas to disperse villagers who had gathered at the scene. The army spokeswoman did not explain why the nonlethal weapons were not used earlier.

In a similar incident Saturday, soldiers shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian when he tried to cross the West Bank barrier south of Hebron. His family said he had been trying to sneak into Israel to work. The military said soldiers followed standard rules of engagement, firing at the suspect’s legs when he refused to stop.

On Friday, a Palestinian was killed in the Gaza Strip when soldiers opened fire at a group that approached the fence on the border with Israel. The army said soldiers followed rules of engagement when Palestinians entered a “forbidden area” and tried to damage the fence.

Gaza protesters have periodically approached the border since Israel relaxed restrictions in the area under the terms of a cease-fire with the militant group Hamas after an eight-day conflict in November. Israel had enforced a 300-yard-wide no-go zone near the fence to prevent militant attacks, but it now permits Palestinian farmers to work on land up to 100 yards away.

In another fatal incident Monday, a Palestinian farmer was shot and killed in the northern Gaza Strip near the border with Israel. Palestinians said he was shot by Israeli troops, but the Israeli military said it was not involved.

 
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