They [Israeli soldiers] dragged him in a brutal way to the military vehicle. Nobody in the world would do that,” a male family member sitting next to Fatima said, echoing the frustration of the circumstances under which the teenager was killed.
The residents of Tuqu — those who were present at the clashes where al-Umour was shot, and those who saw the video documenting the events immediately following his death — seemed to be sure of two things: the high school student was wrongfully killed by Israeli forces, and they do not know, and will likely never know, if Qusay was already dead when soldiers got a hold of his motionless body, or if he died in their custody.
The footage taken by Palestinian journalist Hisham Abu Sharqah immediately after al-Umour was shot went viral on social media, as it seemingly contradicted Israeli army allegations that al-Umour had been the “main instigator” of the clashes that day.
The video shows Israeli forces running towards the teenager’s motionless body, lying in a field of olive trees at least 100 meters away from the road where the clashes were taking place.
As the Israeli soldiers reach a motionless al-Umour lying face down in the ground, one soldier can be seen stumbling on al-Umour’s legs, while another one gets on top of him, forcefully turning him onto his back before more soldiers arrive. The video then shows four soldiers, each carrying one of al-Umour’s arms or legs, dragging the motionless teen to the road in an area surrounded by soldiers and armored jeeps.
Though initial reports claimed that al-Umour was shot six times, a medical source from the Hussein hospital in Beit Jala, where the body was examined, told Qudsdays that the teenager was shot four times — twice in the chest, once in each hip.
“One of the bullets perforated his heart. Medically, this is a fatal bullet,” the source said
Despite medical opinions surrounding the case, which have yet to be formalized, Ahmad al-Umour, a cousin of the slain teenager, told Qudsdays that he — like Fatima, his family, and the rest of the village — did not know what to believe.
When asked to recall details of the incident, specifically regarding the allegation that al-Umour was the “main instigator” despite being shot from a distance of at least 100 meters, Ahmad, distracted and overwhelmed, could fixate only on the fact that al-Umour was dragged by his limbs and left to bleed, with villagers unable to reach him.
“They fired four rounds at his chest, and he fell immediately. They left him bleeding without offering any first aid. After we tried to rush to help him, the soldiers took him to a military base at the entrance of the town,” Ahmad said. “Then they notified the Palestinian liaison office of his martyrdom, and the Palestinian Red Crescent went to receive the martyr’s body.”
Ahmad managed to say a few words about his cousin just as al-Umour’s body was being carried into the mosque, the last stop in the procession before he would be laid to rest.
“Qusay was beloved among the village’s youth. He always helped everyone, he helped his classmates with their lessons. He was sociable,” Ahmad said, adding that al-Umour was also “active in the resistance” against the Israeli soldiers who regularly raid the village.
But when questioned about Qusay or about Monday’s events, Ahmad, Fatima, and every relative and villager Qudsdays spoke with became fixated on the hour or so when the teenager was in Israeli custody before his body was returned. Not on the fact that he was shot in the chest, but that the Israeli army had his body, and for that reason, they could never be sure exactly what happened to him.
Every banner hanging in the village’s streets and poster taped to the backs of cars featured an enlarged screencap of the image of four Israeli soldiers dragging al-Umour’s limp body by his legs and arms, overlaid with a smiling picture of the slain teen on the right, and late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on the left.
Though official medical reports might solve the mystery surrounding whether al-Umour was killed instantly or whether he died after being dragged by Israeli forces and held in Israeli custody, the overwhelming sentiment of denial and doubt surrounding the events of the teenager’s death will likely never be put to rest.
Were an investigation to be opened, the precedent set by cases such as that of 15-year-old Khalid Bahr, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in October for allegedly throwing rocks at soldiers during a raid in a Hebron-area village, casts doubts on the likelihood of real accountability.
While witnesses claimed that Bahr was just walking home from school and not participating in the rock throwing, and an internal Israeli army investigation later revealed that the lives of Israeli soldiers were not at risk when Khalid was killed, no serious repercussions have befallen on those who killed the teenager.
According to rights group Yesh Din, of 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians opened by the Israeli army in 2015, just four resulted in indictments.
Whether al-Umour’s death will have broader repercussions on the accountability of Israeli forces, it will likely not change much for al-Umour’s family, friends, and his fellow villagers.
“They took him about a kilometer away without giving him any medical help or first aid until he bled to death,” a relative of al-Umour told Qudsdays during the funeral. “What would you tell the world about killing a child this way? This is criminal and terrorist behavior.”