IDF opens investigation into deaths of two Gazan teens

The army said suspicions have been raised that the shootings weren't carried out in accordance with the IDF rules of engagement.

An IDF soldier (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An IDF soldier
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel’s military has opened investigations into the shooting deaths of two Palestinian teenagers who were taking part in weekly demonstrations along the Gaza border fence.
IDF Military Advocate General Maj.-Gen. Sharon Afek ordered the investigations following an examination of command debriefings and after the IDF received additional information that raised suspicions the shootings were not in accordance with IDF rules of engagement.
“The General Staff debriefing mechanism will continue to investigate the events and its findings will be transferred to the Judge Advocate General’s Office,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.
The first incident on March 30 involved 18-year-old Abdel Fattah Abdel Nabi, who was killed near the security fence east of Jabalya in the southern Gaza Strip.
According to Palestinian sources, Nabi was shot in the back as he was retreating from the perimeter area with another young Palestinian.
In videos released on social media, the other Palestinian can be seen picking up a tire and running away from the border fence with it. Nabi is then seen joining the other youth and taking the tire while continuing to run away from the border fence. The video shows Nabi being hit by sniper fire and dropping to the ground before being evacuated by other protesters.
But it does not show Nabi’s actions before his retreat from the fence, and the IDF said it shows only part of the events that led to him being shot.
“Hamas distributes many different videos, including those that show only parts of events, edited and fabricated.
Our forces acted according to the rules of engagement in a thoughtful manner, while refraining from harming civilians whom Hamas placed on the front lines in order to embarrass Israel while endangering those civilians,” the IDF statement said.
The second incident occurred east of Gaza City on July 13, when 15-year-old Othman Helles was hit in the stomach by IDF fire.
According to the IDF statement, troops were responding to violent protests after a soldier was moderately injured by a grenade thrown by rioters. “Throughout the day there were violent riots involving thousands of Palestinians along the security fence between Gaza and Israel. Rioters threw grenades, explosive devices and fire bombs, burned tires, and threw stones at the security fence and at IDF troops,” the statement said, adding that troops had first responded with riot-dispersal methods.
Palestinians have been protesting along the Gaza border fence every Friday since March 30, in what has been dubbed the “Great March of Return.”
The protests have been called the greatest threat to Israeli security in the region since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, due to the combination of terrorist tunnels, riots, attempted infiltrations and the use of airborne incendiary items.
More than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began. One Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper, and another was moderately wounded when he was shot in an ambush near Kibbutz Kissufim.
Inquiries by The Jerusalem Post did not yield a clear explanation of why the two investigations were announced Tuesday. Although the incidents occurred months apart, it was left open whether other known controversial incidents might still be in play for a criminal investigation. The announcement came after it was reported that some commanders had recommended against criminal probes.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.