A wail of pain pierced the silence. Mohammed, 2½, was fatally shot. To Israel’s army, it’s just a mistake

Was the state-of-the-art sniper scope not enough for a soldier to see that he was shooting a toddler in the head? If he didn’t know whom he was shooting, why shoot? And if he did, why shoot?

Muhammad Tamimi

Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz on 6 June 2023:

What do you say to a father a few minutes after he gets the horrific news that his baby boy has died of his wounds? What do you say to a father whose baby boy was fatally shot before his eyes by an Israeli army sniper?

What do you say to a father whose baby boy was fatally shot before his eyes by an Israeli army sniper?
What do you say to a father who saw gunfire aimed at his car, quickly shut the door, and immediately saw his infant son lying on his side in the back seat, bleeding from the right side of his head where a bullet wound gaped? A moment earlier, he had been seated there, en route to a birthday party. What do you say to a father who has just learned hope has been exhausted and that his little Mohammed, one of his two children, is dead?

What do you say while he’s in complete shock, wounded from a bullet that hit his shoulder and groaning in pain, and keeps mumbling prayer verses, as though still praying for his son’s life?  On Monday afternoon, when we arrived at the village of Nabi Saleh, we first met with eyewitnesses of the shooting that took place there on Thursday night. A little before 2 P.M., we made a call to the father of the baby who had been wounded and asked to see him. “Come quick,” relatives advised. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

In a short time, we entered the home of baby Mohammed’s grandfather. A terrible silence hung in the small guest room, pierced only by a sudden wail of pain from the other room, where the women of the family were seated. The realization came to us instantly: Mohammed was dead.

Mohammed Tamimi died on Monday afternoon at the ICU at Safra Children’s Hospital, Tel Hashomer. He was two and a half years old. His mother and grandmother were by his side. His father managed to visit him on Sunday for a few hours, but couldn’t stay due to his own bullet wound.

Eighty percent of Mohammed’s tiny brain was damaged by the lethal bullet that exploded in his head, destroying it. He was a fair-haired child, like most of the children of this special village. Like them he was born into a prison village, with a fortified guard tower at its entrance. It was from this tower that snipers shot Mohammed in the head.

Mohammed Tamimi, wounded, in hospital

The military released the results of its internal investigation and ruled it was a case of “misidentification.” The snipers were using telescopic scopes, but got the target wrong. Were their state-of-the-art scopes insufficient for them to see that they were shooting a baby’s head?

Couldn’t they have seen the father, a moment earlier, carrying Mohammed and placing him in the back seat, hurrying back to the driver’s seat, and getting shot before he made it inside? Does a misidentification also mean a total inability to estimate the age of “the enemy”? Did the soldier know at whom he was shooting? If he didn’t, why did he open fire? And if he knew, again, why did he open fire?

Haitham, the shell-shocked father, told us that he heard no shots before putting Mohammed in the family’s Skoda. This contradicted the IDF spokesman’s official version, which said there was gunfire before the baby was killed.  Haitham’s cousin, Sameh Tamimi, a San Francisco-based computer engineer, was in Nabi Saleh on a visit. He suggested that the soldier had to be a psychopath. “Because, what other soldier would shoot a baby in the head?” he asked.

Israeli media outlets were quick to rule that it was “an accidental shooting.” How do they know? Were they there? For them, it’s enough that the IDF spokesman instructed them to say so.

But something else the IDF spokesman said was that there had been shooting preceding the incident, while nobody in the village heard anything like that. And after all, there’s no way a father would have taken his infant son outside had there been gunfire in the village.

The father and son were on their way to the neighboring village of Dir Nizam for the birthday party of the infant’s maternal aunt. Haitham, who works at a cake bakery, brought his sister-in-law a birthday cake from work, then drove home to pick up his kids. Luckily, his other child, eight year-old Osama – who on Monday still didn’t comprehend what had happened to his brother – remained at home.

At 2:30 P.M., the bereaved father sat as his brother wiped his tears from his cheeks. His elderly father sat in front of him silently, looking like someone who had disassociated from reality, having found it too much to bear. He had only prayers, choked tears, and a glazed stare into the room.

Bit by bit, people offering condolences began to stream in. And bit by bit, the realization sunk in: his Mohammed would never celebrate his third birthday.

This article is reproduced in its entirety

© Copyright JFJFP 2022