A Palestinian activist group released photographs on Wednesday that they say show the moment before a Palestinian woman is shot dead by Israeli forces at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron. The Israeli military says the shooting took place after the woman attempted to stab an Israeli soldier.
The Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements group, which advocates civil disobedience and non-violent measures to protest against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, published the photographs, which they say show Hadeel al-Hashlamon, 19, standing before an Israeli soldier who appears to be pointing his gun at her. A black bag can be seen in the images but no knife is visible.
The Israeli military confirmed to Newsweek in a statement that its personnel had shot a female Palestinian on Tuesday in Hebron. Shoham Ruvio, spokesperson for Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the Israeli hospital to which Hashlamon was transported after the shooting, confirmed to The New York Times that the Palestinian teenager had died as a result of her wounds on Tuesday.
The shooting prompted clashes between Palestinian residents of Hebron and Israeli forces, with Palestinians throwing rocks and Israeli forces responding with tear gas.
Issa Amro, founder of the Youth Against Settlements group, told Newsweek that a local volunteer who was at the scene took the photographs. Amro said the photographer did not want to be named out of fear for his safety.
The Israeli military sent Newsweek a photograph from the scene showing a knife they say belonged to Hashlamon. Activists in the city say the young woman did not have a knife on her person and accused the Israeli military of planting the weapon.
Video footage released by PalMedia, a Palestinian media center, purported to show Hashlamon lying in the street after the incident while Israeli soldiers stand around her. She was later taken to an Israeli hospital.
An IDF official told Newsweek: "From the preliminary review regarding this morning's incident in Hebron, the perpetrator approached the checkpoint and the metal detector was activated, alerting the troops suspicion. Forces at the scene asked the perpetrator to stop, at which point she approached the forces, disregarding the instructions and raising further suspicion.
"Forces called for her to halt, which she ignored, and she continued moving while also pulling out a knife," the official 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 towards her."
Amro disputed the Israeli account. "Soldiers shoot Palestinians and the army spokespersons cover what their soldiers do," he said speaking from Hebron via telephone. "This morning I went to the place where she was shot. I found five bullet holes in the ground where her body was. She was shot even when she was down. How can a soldier defend himself by shooting a woman again who was wounded and had fallen down?"
The New York Times quoted a European activist who said he had witnessed the incident and spoke on the condition of anonymity because his employers do not permit him to talk to reporters as saying that a soldier had asked the teenager to open her bag for inspection and when she did he shouted and then shot her.
"When she was opening at her bag, he began shouting: 'Stop! Stop! Stop! Don't move! Don't move!'" the activist told the newspaper. "She was trying to show him what was inside her bag, but the soldier shot her once, and then shot her again." The activist added that three or four other soldiers ran to the scene and also fired.
Hebron, the West Bank's largest city, is a hotspot for tensions between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. Jews consider it home to the second-holiest site in Judaism, the Tombs of the Patriarchs. Muslims consider the city the fourth-holiest in Islam.
After the city was occupied by Israel following the 1967 Six Day War, religious Jewish settlers established outposts there and are now protected by approximately 2,000 soldiers.
In order to protect the settlers, Israeli security forces have gradually instituted a policy of physical separation in Hebron. The movement of Palestinians is restricted by a network of checkpoints.