BEIT UMMAR, WEST BANK (AP) — A week after the death of his eldest son, Moayed al-Alami sat on the sofa on his ground floor patio, protectively hugging and kissing two of his remaining children.
The Israeli military has opened an investigation into the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Alami who was shot by Israeli soldiers as he rode in the family car. But that is no comfort to his father, who is devastated by his son's death and has little faith that he will see justice.
“I have no confidence in the investigation until I see the soldiers in court,” he said. The rear of Moayed's car is riddled with bullet holes and the back seats are still covered in bloodstains.
Mohammed was shot and killed by Israeli forces as he traveled with his father and two siblings in their hometown of Beit Ummar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. His death sparked two days of violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops, resulting in the death of one protester.
Recounting the events of last week, al-Alami said he had just picked up some snacks for the children, using his car, when Mohammed asked to return to the store.
"Mohammed told me, ‘father you have forgotten something.’ I asked if it was necessary, and he said it was very necessary. So, I told him that we will go back and buy it,’’ said al-Alami.
Al-Alami said he turned the car around. Moments later, his white Renault was struck by gunfire from the rear, including at least three bullets that he said hit Mohammed. The boy was rushed to hospital and operated on for four hours before he died.
The Israeli military has said soldiers in the area called on the van to stop, and that the forces fired warning shots and only aimed at the vehicle's tires. Al-Alami said he never heard any warnings. Over 10 bullet holes riddled the vehicle.
The army also said that al-Alami's car resembled a vehicle driven by a group of men who were seen burying what turned out to be a dead baby earlier that day.
Al-Alami's brother — who witnessed the entire event from the balcony -- said the two events were not related and that earlier, another family had been burying a stillborn baby in a cemetery.
“The three people who arrived earlier had come to bury a baby that had died in the womb,” Ashraf Al-Alami said.
After the three people had left, he said he began to worry when he saw soldiers arrive. He feared they would mistake the burial site as a crime scene and grow suspicious. That was when his brother's car approached.
The Israel human rights group B'Tselem this week released what it said was security-camera video of the shooting. In the video, al-Alami's van is seen approaching a dip in the road, with a group of Israeli soldiers standing further down a hill.
Al-Alami is seen doing a U-turn before being chased up the street by troops, who are heard shouting at him to stop, before opening fire. The actual shooting is not seen, but at least a dozen shots are heard. B'Tselem said the video shows the family posed no threat to the troops.
The army has said that senior commanders and military police — which investigate suspected wrongdoing by troops— are involved in the probe.
But Moayed said that he did not expect the investigation to lead to anything. He said the military helped transfer the boy to the hospital after the shooting, but that he has not heard from investigators.
And B'Tselem, a major human rights group, grew so frustrated with the military justice system that in 2016 it halted its longtime practice of assisting in investigations. It accuses the army of whitewashing wrongdoing and says soldiers are rarely punished.
In the first seven months of this year, Israeli fire has killed 11 Palestinian children in the West Bank, surpassing the total number of child killings in 2020, according to the advocacy group Defense for Children Palestine.
Israeli soldiers man a watchtower next to Beit Ummar in order to protect traffic going in and out of the nearby Israeli settlement of Karmei Zur.
Mohammed’s funeral the following day resulted in large clashes in which a 20-year-old Palestinian man was killed by Israeli army fire. His funeral was held on Friday, followed by more clashes.
The mayor of Beit Ummar – who is also a member of the extended al-Alami family — said that most of Beit Ummar’s 17,000 residents attended the boy's funeral.
‘‘The soldiers did not allow us to bury our child in dignity,’’ said Habis Al-Alami. ‘‘To kill a boy with just bread in his hand. It is a crime, we just want to be treated as human beings.’’
Jack Jeffery And Imad Isseid, The Associated Press