Family recounts Palestinian teen's last hours before Israeli shooting

Family recounts Palestinian teen's last hours before Israeli shooting
Parents, relatives and friends recount the final hours of Ali Abu Alya, who was killed when the Israeli Army used live ammunition to disperse a protest on Friday.
4 min read
09 December, 2020
Nasir Abu Alya was shot dead by Israeli forces on his 15th birthday [AFP]

After waking up on Friday, the day he turned 15, Palestinian Ali Ayman Nasr Abu Aliya told his mother Nihad he was hoping for a birthday surprise.

Nihad said she had planned to serve maqluba, a traditional lamb and rice dish, at a party later on and had his gifts ready, including a new pair of shoes.

But in the early afternoon, Aliya was shot and killed during clashes with Israeli troops in his village of Mughayir, just north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Clutching tasbih prayer beads, Aliya's father Ayman told AFP he remembered the moment he heard gunshots.

"I looked around but Ali was not here," he said.

Israel's army initially said its troops had not used live ammunition in the incident.

Responding to AFP's questions on Monday, the army said that in order to suppress "violent riots" it had used "riot dispersal means" including 0.22 calibre bullets.

Witnesses said Aliya had been throwing rocks.

Mughayir has been in mourning since the weekend, with posters honouring the 15-year-old as a "martyr" and a "hero" fixed on cars, walls and hanging off electrical wires above the village streets.

5:00 am wake up

Nihad, Ayman as well as other devastated relatives and friends recounted to AFP the final hours of a young man described as intelligent, an excellent student, kind, helpful and a fan of Real Madrid.

On his last birthday, he woke up at 5:00 am.

His grandfather Nasser, a short man who wears a traditional keffiyeh headscarf, had asked him to bring food to an uncle looking after livestock a distance away. 

Nasser said his family had grazed sheep in Mughayir, a village of about 4,000 people, "since God created Earth".

Aliya road a donkey through West Bank plains dotted with olive trees and fields with turned soil, before returning to Mughayir later in the morning.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six Day War.

Friday afternoon protests against the occupation are a near-weekly event in the Palestinian territory, but their intensity varies.

Palestinians in the village are currently in conflict with a handful of Israelis who have set up a so-called wildcat settlement nearby.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by most of the international community.

Israel has recognised some as legal, notably high population communities near Jerusalem.

But the Jewish state has generally not recognised wildcat settlements, often set up by a few hardline religious nationalists who install rudimentary structures on Palestinian territory.

On Friday, Israeli troops were positioned at the exit of Mughayir, seeking to prevent Palestinians from confronting the settlers, who they accuse of trying to grab Palestinian land.

'My belly!'

Israel's army said "dozens of rioters threw stones" at security personnel and attempted "to roll large boulders and burning tires from the ridges above the Alon road, endangering the lives of passengers".

Troops "responded with riot dispersal means, including the use of 0.22 Ruger bullets".

Multiple witnesses said there were about a dozen security personnel at the scene and roughly 30 Palestinians.

"It was the first time (Ali) had been (at a protest)", father Ayman said.

Witnesses said Aliya had also been throwing stones and his classmate, 14-year-old Nael Ahmed, told AFP he was a few meters away when Aliya was hit by a fatal shot.

"Suddenly he shouted 'banti,' ('my belly' in Arabic) and then collapsed," Ahmed said.

Smartphone footage from witnesses seen by AFP showed Aliya lying on a bench, with a black and red wound above his navel, as surrounding men pleaded with him to stay conscious.

'One of my children'

The wounded teenager was first rushed to the nearby village of Turmus Ayya.

"When I saw the car speeding, I said to myself, 'that is one of my children,'" Ayman recalled.

Next the teenager was taken to a hospital in Ramallah, about 20 kilometres away.

"I was with him in the hospital. I hoped he would survive," Ayman said.

The Palestinian health ministry said Aliya died after being "shot with live rounds in the stomach".

The Palestinian Authority condemned the shooting as "cold-blooded murder".

The European Union and United Nations have both deplored the incident and called for an investigation.

Israel's army said "a military police investigation has been launched," and that "the findings will be examined by the Military Advocate General".

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