IDF probe finds no connection between soldiers and Palestinian boy's death

The Palestinian Authority blamed Israel for the boy's death, shifting its narrative multiple times about the cause of death.

 Israeli security forces stand next to a picture of seven-year-old Palestinian boy Rayyan Suleiman (photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS)
Israeli security forces stand next to a picture of seven-year-old Palestinian boy Rayyan Suleiman
(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS)

The Israeli military has ruled out any connection between troop activity and the death of a 7-year-old Palestinian boy at the end of September in the West Bank village of Tuqu.

Rayan Yasser Sliman died suddenly in disputed circumstances after IDF troops showed up at his home in the village south of Bethlehem, looking for children who had been throwing stones at Israeli vehicles.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry immediately blamed Israel for his death, saying first that he had died after falling from a high place, but later shifting its narrative during the course of the day, saying that the boy fell and his heart stopped as a result, and then later that he died due to heart failure after being chased by troops who then threatened his family.

According to the investigation by the IDF, the force entered the village and went to several buildings in order to identify the suspects. In one of the homes, the officer “recognized” the father of the family from the window of his house and called on him to come out along with his children in order to be questioned.

The military said that the father came along with two of his children and had a “short conversation, conducted in a respectful manner, without any contact and certainly without the use of verbal or physical violence” with the company commander.

 People mourn during the funeral of seven-year-old Palestinian boy Rayyan Suleiman (credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS) People mourn during the funeral of seven-year-old Palestinian boy Rayyan Suleiman (credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS)

The statement said that it was not possible to determine if Sliman was with the father during the conversation or the two older brothers, who may have been the ones who threw the stones.

The family has said that the boy collapsed after fleeing soldiers who then showed up at his home.

The IDF said that as troops left the village, a car with the father of the family passed by them with a child on his lap. After some time, the force commander saw an ambulance enter the village and then leave.

“During the entire time that the force was in the village, no force or weapons of any kind were used at all (no live fire or riot dispersal means)” the military said, adding that there was also no evidence that Rayan fell or was hurt due to the force’s actions.

“According to the investigation’s conclusions, any connection between the unfortunate death of the boy Rayan Suleiman and the actions of the force is ruled out,” the statement said. “The soldiers acted as expected while adhering to IDF values.”

IDF continues Operation Break the Wave in West Bank

His death came as the IDF continues its Operation Break the Wave across the West Bank, cracking down on Palestinian terror including stone-throwing, for which hundreds of Palestinian children have been arrested by IDF troops.

Following his death, the US State Department called on Israel to investigate, with Deputy State Department Spokesman Vedant Patel saying that “we support a thorough and immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death.

“The US is heartbroken to learn of the death of an innocent Palestinian child,” he said.

The left-wing Israeli NGO group Yesh-Din said that the IDF investigation was not a substitute for “a thorough and professional investigation,” calling for a professional “criminal investigation.”

Sliman’s tragic death, Yesh Din said, ‘is further proof that the time has come to bring about a fundamental change in the army’s policy of invading Palestinian homes without a judicial order.”

Tzvi Joffre and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.