Why Was Mahmoud Shaalan Killed by Israeli Soldiers?

On Feb. 26, 17-year-old Palestinian-American Mahmoud Shaalan was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a security checkpoint near the Beit El settlement in the West Bank. The Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint shot Mahmoud several times, and later reported that he had tried to stab them.

The week after the incident, the Palestinian Ministry of Health released a statement saying that the teenager’s body was “riddled with bullets.” Witnesses said that the soldiers continued to shoot Mahmoud as he lay on the ground, left him bleeding on the road for two-and-a-half hours, and prevented a Palestinian ambulance from taking him to the hospital.

This is one of dozens of horrific stories of Palestinians killed by the Israeli military in recent months — stories that should have the attention of the US government, since the US sends billions of dollars in military aid to Israel each year.

Numerous US laws and regulations, including the Leahy Law, prohibit the US from providing security assistance or training to foreign military units that violate human rights. Although organizations like Human Rights Watch have documented dozens of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory, none of the units behind these attacks have been held responsible.

The killing of Mahmoud Shaalan — a high school student with hopes of studying medicine, who had returned from the United States three days before his death — is just one example of the unlawful killings that continue to occur. Even if Mahmoud had a knife, as the Israeli soldiers claim he did, the soldiers resorted to excessive and unnecessary force instead of attempting to disarm or apprehend him.

The media often only report Israeli accounts of violence incidents — which is usually that a Palestinian killed was about to commit a crime. This typical obfuscation of the entire story justifies ongoing human rights violations and discourage further investigation from taking place.

Since October 2015, Israeli security forces have killed at least 169 Palestinians, 112 of whom were alleged assailants like Mahmoud. According to Amnesty International, a significant number of those Palestinians were killed unlawfully through “extrajudicial executions.”

The United States cannot ignore these mounting numbers.

Although the US Department of State confirmed that Mahmoud is indeed a US citizen, the US has not issued any official condemnation. The White House and Department of State have not even publicly called for an investigation into this incident to date.

The American Friends Service Committee is working with a coalition of organizations urging the US to call for investigations into human rights violations committed by Israel. Together, we’re calling on the US to stop funding Israeli military units that commit human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Mahmoud should still be alive today. The US has a responsibility to find out the truth about what happened and to hold his killers accountable. Failure by the US to call for an investigation into Mahmoud’s death — as well as dozens of cases like his — will continue to justify violent killings of Palestinians for years to come.