Washington demands probe into Palestinian teen’s death

American citizen Tawfiq Ajaq was fatally shot in the West Bank

The US State Department on Monday urged Israel to investigate the death of a 17-year-old American citizen in the West Bank last week.

Tawfiq Ajak, 17, was fatally shot on Friday near the village of al-Mazraa Al-Sharqiya, northeast of Ramallah. 

“We have called for an urgent investigation to determine the circumstance of his death,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters at a briefing in Washington on Monday.

The US is “devastated about the killing” and is continuing to “engage closely with the government of Israel to ascertain as much information as possible,” Patel said. He added that the head of the US Office of Palestinian Affairs has visited Ajaq’s family to offer condolences and the embassy in Jerusalem will “continue assisting” them.

Tawfiq was born and raised near New Orleans, Louisiana. He moved to the West Bank last year with his parents and four siblings, to reconnect with their Palestinian heritage, according to Al Jazeera.

His cousin Joe Abdel Qaki told AJ that Tawfiq was grilling in the field outside the village when he was shot, once in the head and once in the chest. He died on the way to the hospital. According to Abdel Qaki, Israeli soldiers asked him and other Palestinians who tried to reach Tawfiq to show them their papers, delaying the rescue.

Tawfiq Hafez Tawfiq Ajaq, 17, a U.S. citizen, was killed yesterday as an Israeli settler and Israeli forces opened fire on his car in the occupied West Bank. It remains unclear whether the settler or a soldier fired the bullet that struck him in the head. https://t.co/KNXxMRoeqj pic.twitter.com/nYEULLlWCM

— Defense for Children (@DCIPalestine) January 20, 2024

“Tawfiq is an American child who was chased and shot at by an Israeli settler, then Israeli forces pulled up and continued shooting,” Miranda Cleland from the nonprofit Defense for Children Palestine, said on X (formerly Twitter).

Israeli police said they had received a report of a “firearm discharge, ostensibly involving an off-duty law enforcement officer, a soldier and a civilian.” They did not identify the shooter, but note that the individuals targeted “purportedly engaged in rock-throwing activities along Highway 60.”

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US and Israel at odds over Gaza’s fate

At his son’s funeral on Saturday, Hafez Ajaq was furious that he as an American taxpayer was footing the bill for Israeli “killer machines” to “kill our own children.”

Some 369 Palestinians – 95 of them minors – have been killed in the West Bank since October last year, when Israel declared an all-out war against Hamas. The Gaza-based armed group had killed around 1,200 Israelis in nearby settlements in a series of raids on October 7. Since then, almost 25,000 Palestinians in the enclave have been killed, according to local health authorities.

While South Africa has accused Israel of genocide before the International Court of Justice, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters last week that the US didn’t have “any indications that there’s deliberate efforts to commit war crimes” by the Israeli military.

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