WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Biden administration’s State Department demanded a “thorough and immediate” investigation into the death of a 7-year-old after Israeli soldiers visited his West Bank home.
“The U.S. is heartbroken to learn of the death of an innocent Palestinian child,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said. “We support a thorough and immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death, and I believe the IDF itself has also indicated it will be looking into what has – what transpired as well.”
Rian Suleiman collapsed and died after soldiers visited his home in the West Bank town of Teqoa, near Bethlehem, on Thursday, according to his uncle, Mohammed Suleiman, who spoke to Haaretz. (The town shares a name with a nearby Jewish settlement.) He said the boy was frightened after shouting broke out between the soldiers and the boy’s father because the soldiers wanted to arrest Rian’s older brothers, who are 8 and 10.
Haaretz quoted defense officials as saying that troops were at the house investigating a stone-throwing incident and were not aware of the boy’s death until they heard the father shouting after they left.
The defense official said the army was investigating the incident, adding that their initial inquiries have found no connection between the soldiers’ presence and Rian’s death.
Palestinian Authority officials had initially said Suleiman died after falling while being chased by Israeli troops.
Tensions are high in the West Bank as Israel continues raids aimed at routing out terrorists behind a series of deadly attacks on Israeli civilians in the spring. A raid earlier this week in Jenin resulted in the death of four Palestinians whom Israel said were involved in militant activity , including the brother of a man who murdered three people in a shooting attack in Tel Aviv in April.
A prominent Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was killed during a similar raid in May, and the Biden administration pressed Israel for answers. Israeli officials initially said Abu Akleh might have been killed by Palestinian militants, but earlier this month acknowledged that the shooter was likely Israeli. They said her killing was not deliberate.