TEL AVIV (Dec. 14)
A Jewish settler in the West Bank may have been responsible for the death of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy during a rock-throwing melee at the Balata refugee camp near Nablus last Monday.
That possibility emerged after a week-long investigation by the Israel Defense Force and the police indicated that security forces could not possibly have fired the fatal shots, but was unable to determine who did.
Military sources said last week that bullets extracted from the youth’s body after he was found dead on arrival at a hospital did not match those fired from any weapons issued to the IDF. Pathologists said later that no bullets had been found in the body.
The IDF noted further that the boy appears to have been killed before the IDF clashed with a stone-throwing mob at the camp, opening fire after tear gas failed to disperse them. Another group of soldiers who fired at rock-throwers from their moving bus was absolved because that incident occurred far from the Nablus area.
Officials now tend to believe a civilian was responsible for the youngster’s death. A civilian was seen on Israel television to have fired into the air at the Balata camp as soldiers patrolled nearby.
Israeli newspapers reported Friday that the civilian is a West Bank resident who served as an armed escort for a group of settlers returning home. Their bus was stoned but continued. The escort remained behind to help clear the road. He claimed that he was in radio contact with the IDF and received permission to open fire with his weapon.
The local IDF commander denied this. He told the press he had ordered the man to get out of the area and leave patrolling and peacekeeping to the security forces.