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Israel claims no wrongdoing in West Bank killing of US teen



An Israeli policeman walks as soldiers guard the area on July 26, 2016 at the Qalandia crossing between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem al-Quds. (AFP photo)

The Israeli regime has informed US authorities that they have found no criminal wrongdoing by soldiers in the shooting death of an American teenager of Palestinian descent, adding they will no longer pursue the case.

The decision concerning the brutal killing of 16-year-old Florida boy Mahmoud Shaalan in February has upset human rights activists who challenge Israeli description of what happened and who have long accused the regime of failing to hold its military accountable for the use of excessive force, US-based Politico news outlet reported Saturday.

Tel Aviv authorities had alleged that Shaalan was repeatedly shot and killed by soldiers at a checkpoint near Ramallah in occupied West Bank on February 26 after he tried to stab an Israeli officer.

Contrary to past claims by the Israeli regime that Shaalan kept trying to stab soldiers even after being shot by Israeli forces who then repeatedly shot and killed him, Israeli media reports cited eyewitnesses as saying that the teenager was shot in the back after getting into an apparent verbal argument with Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint.

According to the report, some US-based activists have quietly been pushing the Obama administration and Congress to do more to shed light on what happened.

File photo of Israeli soldiers standing at a scene where a Palestinian man was shot and killed near Ramallah. (AP Photo)

Raed Jarrar, an official with the American Friends Service Committee, pointed to the reports of eyewitness accounts in the case and was quoted in the report as saying, “According to US law, the Obama administration should immediately suspend military aid to the Israeli security unit responsible for this gross violation of human rights.”

According to Politico, Jarrar is also working with an array of other rights groups to urge American lawmakers to bring pressure on the Obama administration to look more closely into the case.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International USA’s Edith Garwood was also cited in the report as stating, “The State Department knows that Israeli investigations are inadequate. They’re not independent, they’re not transparent. I’m not sure under what circumstances the US government is prompted to carry out their own investigation, but it would appear to be this would be an example of where they should do so.”

This is while a US State Department official confirmed late this week that after six months of looking into the case, Israeli officials had decided not to press further.

“We have received an official response from the Israelis, and we understand that they have completed their investigation. We understand that they did not find any criminal misconduct and do not plan to proceed with a criminal investigation. We are studying their response,” said the official.

Meanwhile, Shaalan’s relatives have maintained his innocence. They describe the late teen as a straight-A student far more focused on his studies than the Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Shaalan was buried with an American flag as well as a Palestinian one, according to press accounts.

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