17-year-old shot dead near village of Silwad; White House says ‘seriously concerned’ over reports
A 17-year-old Palestinian-American teenager was shot and killed by Israeli forces during clashes in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, according to Palestinian officials.
Background of the Victim
The teenager was identified as Tawfiq Hijazi, a high school student from Louisiana who was visiting relatives in the West Bank over winter break. He held dual American and Palestinian citizenship.
Hijazi lived in the New Orleans area and attended Belle Chasse High School. He was described as an honors student who excelled academically and was involved in the school’s junior ROTC program.
Table: Key Details on Tawfiq Hijazi
|17 years old
|Palestinian and American (dual)
|Belle Chasse High School
|In West Bank
|Visiting relatives over winter break
Hijazi was visiting family members in the village of Silwad near Ramallah at the time he was killed. He has multiple siblings living in the New Orleans area.
Circumstances of Deadly Clash
According to witness accounts, clashes erupted between Israeli soldiers and locals throwing stones in the area of Route 60, a main thoroughfare in the central West Bank.
At one point, soldiers opened fire, shooting Hijazi in the back. The teen later died of his wounds, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The Israeli military said troops had responded to intensifying, life-threatening stone throwing along the highway. It confirmed troops had used live fire and was investigating the incident.
Reactions from U.S. and Palestinian Officials
The killing drew sharp condemnations from Palestinian and American officials.
The U.S. State Department said it was “heartbroken” over the death of a U.S. citizen and called for a thorough investigation. The White House also said it was “seriously concerned” about the reports of Hijazi’s death.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused the soldier who opened fire of having “deliberately killed” Hijazi, saying the teen was shot in the back after clashes had subsided.
Expected Fallout and Next Steps
The incident is likely to further ratchet up tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Deadly violence in the West Bank surged last year to its highest levels since 2006.
There will be immense pressure on Israeli authorities to launch a transparent investigation given Hijazi held American citizenship. Results of any probe could impact U.S. relations with Israel at a time when the Biden administration has already voiced concerns over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Hijazi’s body was transported to the Palestinian forensic institute for an autopsy. His family is making arrangements to transport his body back home to Louisiana for burial.
A candlelight vigil commemorating Hijazi’s life is planned this weekend in his hometown. The teen’s killing has shocked those who knew him and his close-knit Palestinian-American community in Louisiana.
As Hijazi held American citizenship, the role of the FBI could also come into play in investigating the circumstances around the shooting. The U.S. State Department said it will provide consular support to the family.
This story will continue to develop in the coming days and weeks as the investigation proceeds and more details emerge on the incident. Hijazi’s killing threatens to deteriorate U.S.-Israel ties and fuel further unrest in the region.
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