It is no longer in dispute that armed Israeli officers killed Samer Suleiman Abu Mayaleh and injured his friend Ahmad Abdel Ramhan Shoaki on February 8. Arrested that same day were Mohannad Jweihan and Amjad Abu Rmeileh.
But a cloud of police deception and charges of gross wrongdoing continue to mar what really happened to the group of 13- and 14-year old boys as they passed through the Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Al Mukaber on that sunny early Friday afternoon.
According to eyewitnesses interviewed by the Palestine Report and human rights groups, Israeli police and soldiers fired at Abu Mayaleh and Shoaki while chasing them in Jabal Al Mukaber. Jweihan was arrested while watching the events unfold and Abu Rmeileh was taken from his home three hours after the incident.
Israeli authorities charge that the boys stabbed to death an Israeli woman who was with her boyfriend in a park next to Jabal Al Mukaber. Immediately after the chase, Israeli police announced that Abu Mayaleh had suffered a severe heart attack that led to his immediate death during his arrest. Later, a police autopsy determined that Abu Mayaleh had died of a bullet wound. Ahmad was injured in his hand by gunfire during his arrest.
One eyewitness in his early twenties, Nidal Abu Saloum, was at his sister’s house nearby when he heard of a chase and went to find out what was happening. He remembers seeing policemen and soldiers chase three boys up the mountain. They were yelling at them to stop, but the boys kept running. Abu Saloum says he saw one boy get away, but the soldiers shot at the two others as they scrambled up the incline.
One child, Ahmad Shoaki, was hit in the hand by the gunfire. Both Shoaki and Abu Mayaleh continued trying to run away, when Abu Mayaleh fell to the ground.
“The soldiers then ordered him to raise his hands in the air, but he couldn’t,” recalls Abu Saloum. “I heard him say he couldn’t, so one of the soldiers came and lifted his hands for him.”
Abu Saloum says the soldiers and police left Abu Mayaleh lying there on the ground for about an hour. After the long wait, the soldiers surrounded the boy until he was totally out of Abu Saloum’s vision. “Then we heard a gunshot,” he recalls. When the soldiers and police moved away, Abu Saloum saw blood on the boy’s back. He had been stripped of his clothes.
“Then I saw a soldier lift Samer’s leg, which fell limply. I knew then that Samer was dead,” says Abu Saloum.
He says four Israeli soldiers then dragged Abu Mayaleh away by the arms and legs. The other injured child was escorted by another soldier to a white military jeep and placed near Abu Mayaleh.
The Israeli autopsy, in which Palestinian physician Jalal Jabiri participated at the Abu Mayaleh family’s request, later showed that Samer died from a gunshot wound inflicted while the boy was in a horizontal resting position. The results showed that the boy had been shot in his rectum at close range, according to an interview with Doctor Jabiri in Al Quds newspaper. The bullet first burned the rectum and then penetrated the liver, reaching the boy’s heart. According to Doctor Jabiri, the boy lost more than three liters of blood (one-third of the blood in the body) in less than a minute.
Israeli authorities say they have opened an investigation into the shooting.
Jabiri charges that police intended to disguise the cause of Abu Mayaleh’s death since the bullet entered through the rectum and there were no other external wounds. The doctor said that the bullet was fired from a distance ranging between 30 centimeters and one meter.
Family and friends of the boys continue to discount police charges that the four carried out the stabbing. Fourteen-year-old Abdel Afou says he saw Samer and Ahmad go to Jabal Al Mukaber to play. “They were holding a soccer ball and told me they were going to play. They always go to Jabal Al Mukaber to play,” Abed says. The boys either kick around a soccer ball or roast potatoes on the mountain.
Um Suleiman, Samer’s mother, sits in the midst of a large group of women who came to pay their condolences over the loss of her child. She says Samer had asked her for NIS20 the day before to go with his friends to Jabal Al Mukaber to play and picnic. She says that he and his friends spent the day there every Friday. “I had seven children,” she said tearfully. “Israel has made them six.”
Samer’s mother does not believe the Israeli account that her son stabbed an Israeli woman. “Can 14-year-old children stab an adult women who is there with her boyfriend?” she asks incredulously.
Tears well up in the eyes of Samer’s father, Diab Abu Mayaleh, despite his efforts to appear strong before his family. He said the day of Samer’s death, Israeli officers came and took him from his home to the police station. “I had heard that something had happened to Samer, so I guessed that it was something bad,” he recalls.
The police first told Samer’s uncle of the death, most likely because his father has heart problems. “I heard my brother scream and start cursing the police,” says the father. “I was worried they would start to beat him so I took him out of the station. Outside, my brother informed me of my son’s death.”
“Samer and Ahmad went to the same school,” says Salah Shoaki, Ahmad’s father. “They would always go to the park because this is the only recreation area for children. What Israel says are lies. Our children had nothing to do with this.”
“Where did 14-year-old children get knives from?” he continues. “They went to the mountain with a ball and some food. They didn’t have any knives.”
Neighbors of Amjad Abu Rmeileh, who was arrested three hours after the incident, remain shocked at the boy’s arrest. They say that Amjad was not even with the other children in Jabal Al Mukaber but was in the Mutran playground in another part of East Jerusalem playing soccer.
Abdel Salaam Shoaki, a neighbor boy, says he was with him. “We went to play and when we came back to the neighborhood, Israeli soldiers were waiting in front of his house,” the boy remembers. “That is when they arrested him, saying he was with the others in Jabal Al Mukaber. I don’t know how they can claim that. He was in the Mutran playground and he even scored a goal in the game.”