Palestinian witness disputes Israeli army's account of fatal shooting of woman in West Bank

A Palestinian witness on Wednesday disputed the Israeli army's account of a fatal shooting in the West Bank the previous day, an incident in which the military said a Palestinian woman was shot as she attempted to stab a soldier at a checkpoint.

The woman, 18-year-old Hadeel al-Hashlamon, was taken to an Israeli hospital in critical condition on Tuesday and her father, Salah al-Hashlamon, said she later died of her wounds. No Israeli soldiers were hurt in the incident, in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The witness, Fawaz Abu Eisheh said he was at the checkpoint on his way to work at Hebron municipality and heard the troops ordering the woman to stop.

"Soldiers were shouting at a veiled girl, while aiming their weapons at her and asking her in Hebrew to step back," Abu Eisheh said, adding that he thought there might be a language barrier and offered to translate.

He said he told the woman to walk back toward the exit area of the checkpoint and that she heard him and began walking in that direction.

"While she was walking there, one of the soldiers stopped her and shot toward the floor, the girl stopped like a needle, she didn't move," he said. Several other soldiers then surrounded her, and everyone was shouting, he added.

Abu Eisheh said he asked the soldiers to wait while he spoke with her.

"In the middle of all this shouting, one of the soldiers shot directly at her left leg, she fell down and didn't move," Abu Eisheh said. "After 10 to 15 seconds later, he shot another bullet at her right leg; after 10 seconds, he shot four, five bullets at her abdomen and chest area; and then after five, 10 seconds he shot another bullet from one meter away," he said.

Abu Eisheh spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday, after the woman's funeral.

The Israeli military's account said "the perpetrator approached the checkpoint and the metal detector was activated, alerting the troops' suspicion."

The military said suspicions were raised further when she ignored their instructions.

"Forces called for her to halt, which she ignored, and she continued moving while also pulling out a knife," it said.

"At this point, forces fired at the ground, then at her lower extremities in attempts to stop her advancement. The perpetrator continued and at this point, recognizing a clear and present danger to their safety, the forces fired toward her," the military said.

It also released a photo it said was of the knife the woman had pulled.

Palestinian stabbing attacks against soldiers in the West Bank are fairly common.

The woman's father, Salah al-Hashlamon, said his "daughter was killed in cold blood" and that he challenges the military to prove there was a stabbing attempt and show footage from checkpoint cameras.

He claimed that when a soldier asked Hadeel "to remove her veil, she declined saying, 'Bring me a female soldier!'"

"Then he shouted at her, saying, 'Do you have a knife?'" he added. Hadeel got confused, the father claimed, and as she "stepped back, he (the soldier) opened fire and killed her."

The father, who did not witness the incident, said he bases his version of events on what people present at the checkpoint told him.

"I have eyewitnesses, I have photos, and will go to court," he said.

The latest violence comes amid rising tensions surrounding Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The site, holy to both Jews and Muslims, has been a flashpoint for violence in recent days.

Tensions boiled over last week on the eve of the Jewish new year holiday of Rosh Hashanah when Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque and, in clashes with police that would continue for days, threw rocks and firecrackers at officers. An Israeli man was killed in Jerusalem when Palestinians pelted his car with rocks.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said there were several instances of Palestinian rock-throwing attacks over the Yom Kippur fast that ended Wednesday evening.

A firebomb was thrown at a Jewish house near an Arab area in Jerusalem. There were no injuries in the attack and police were investigating, she said.

Several rockets from the Gaza Strip have also been fired recently, and Israel has deployed its Iron Dome rocket defense battery in towns near the Palestinian territory.


Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report from Ramallah, West Bank.