+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Why was 17-year-old Muhammad killed?

A Palestinian teen was on his way to the bakery to buy a cake for his birthday party. A border policewoman who shot him to death claims he held a toy gun to another soldier’s head. 

By Noam R.

Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah from Hebron celebrated his 17th birthday yesterday. His mother sent him to buy a cake for the planned party, and when he left his home on his way to the bakery he was stopped at an army checkpoint, where he was shot to death by an officer from the Border Police unit. These are the facts. From here, each side has a different version.

The border policewoman, whose name was published yesterday and is censored today, claims Muhammad took a pistol out of his pocket, grabbed one of the soldiers standing next to her and put the gun to his head. Without hesitation, she shot him while he was still holding the soldier. First a single shot, then another one, and only in the third shot did Muhammad let go of the soldier and the gun. As his dead body lay on the ground, it turned out the weapon was a toy gun – one which none of those who knew Muhammad had ever seen.

A Palestinian doctor who happened to be in the area heard the shots (witnesses claim there were six of them) and ran towards the Ibrahimi Mosque, where he saw a Palestinian woman arguing with the soldiers. The woman asked them to let her approach the wounded teenager. By the time the doctor was allowed to reach Muhammad, it was too late. Citizens who arrived on the scene, among them a volunteer from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, reported that police officers took their cameras or deleted their photos without explaining why.

Those who knew Muhammad said that he was hard of hearing, which probably made it difficult for him to follow the instructions of the soldiers at the checkpoint, and that in any case, he couldn’t have done what the army claimed he did. Not yesterday, and not at any other time before.

In the hours that followed, the police arrested Muhammad’s younger brother, and his father was hospitalized in fair condition. Five children between the ages of 8 and 14 were arrested, and five others injured.

Here is Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah at a party held for him at school, on the morning of his death.

Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah, a 17-year-old Palestinian shot to death at an army checkpoint in Hebron

I don’t know what happened at the checkpoint in Hebron and I don’t intend to judge any of the people involved. I can just say that the story of the Border Police officer sounds strange, to say the least. Luckily, the checkpoints in Hebron are monitored by Israeli security cameras, and I am sure that if her story is true, the IDF will release the video, showing a 17-year-old teen taking out a toy gun and holding it to the head of a soldier while the Border Police officer managed to shoot his body – not his head – no less than three times, despite the fact that according to her version, Muhammad’s body was hidden behind the captive soldier.

The full name of the Border Police officer, and her picture – standing smiling in full army vest – was published yesterday in the media. Today, her name is censored and her pictured is blurred. It’s too late, of course. By now social media is full of calls for revenge, and the PR trick by Israel could cost the young girl and her family dearly. With all those calls to put her on trial for war crimes, she may have to think twice before going on vacation to Europe.

A video showing the minutes after Muhammad was shot. The clip was taken by a B’Tselem volunteer.

In the last few days, Israeli politicians have used every opportunity to appear as militaristic as possible. Even Shaul Mofaz has emerged from his obscurity and called to loosen the firing regulations, as did the brave soldier Eli Yishai. Just this week there were two incidents in which soldiers decided not to open fire at protesters – one in Kaddum and the other in Hebron – and the army came under harsh criticism for it. I am sure that calls like “cowards” and “shame on the army,” along with the militaristic public atmosphere played their part in officer N.’s decision to kill Muhammad.

There is no doubt that it was N. who pulled the trigger and shot the bullets that took the life of Muhammad Salaymah. But it’s not she alone who is responsible for his death. The fact that the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Hebron area are being run by kids in uniform is the real crime. Officer N. has a commander, and her commander has a commander, and so on, all the way up to the prime minister, and every single one of them bears the responsibility for the death of a hearing impaired teen who celebrated his 17th birthday yesterday. The occupation has made us blind to the suffering of life under oppression, under daily humiliations at the checkpoints. The price which is becoming clear today – the one which the family of Muhammad has paid and that N. will carry with her all her life – is not something we can bear much longer. When the policies of Netanyahu and Lieberman lead to another Intifada, it will be too late. When a young boy is shot at a checkpoint on his way to buy a cake for his birthday, it is already too late. This occupation must end.

Noam R. is an Israeli blogger. This post was originally published on his blog, and it is translated and reposted here with the author’s permission.  

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. AYLA

      thank you, Noam.

      Reply to Comment
    2. rsgengland

      I am in no way commenting on the incident, but I would like to know what the relevance of the short video is, other than to incite feelings further than they are already.
      Possibly if an ambulance or recognized medical personal were able to get to the body, rather than arguing, wailing people crowding round the situation would be a little less fraught.
      Also it is the second time in few weeks that Israeli soldiers have been refered to as”child soldiers” and “kids in uniform” in +972!
      Those terms as well as an irrelevant
      video, are extremely partisan and
      provocotive, and can only fuel confrontation, rather than trying to find an acceptable solution for everybody in this “Special Land”.

      Reply to Comment
      • A confrontation is imminent, not with the Palestinians, but with the rest of the world. This was not an incident, but another lethal crime in a list too long to remember.
        The obvious acceptable solution would be that all racists move out, more and more countries are willing to help there.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Intifada III

          Reply to Comment
      • walt kovacs

        where is the cake box?

        and the crowd is part of the modus operendai of the palis…its called a surge

        an attempt to increase casualties in order to garner world wide sympathy

        those bent on suicide get no sympathy from me

        Reply to Comment
        • Yeah, she was aiming at the cake and he was posing as a human shield.

          Reply to Comment
          • Deborah


            Reply to Comment
        • Aml

          Where is the cake box?! You’re not asking the right question! You should ask: where is the toy gun! Im sure if there was any they will show it to the crowed who were there. And about the cake, he went to buy it, but as you see he didn’t make it!

          Reply to Comment
        • Woody

          So then you would call settlers “surging” into the West Bank to live illegally with army provocation alongside them NOT an attempt to get bodies and induce world-wide support? People just don’t believe the two-faced BS of you apartheid apologists. Hope you enjoy the two or so years of commenting you get before your lies and delusion backfire on all of us.

          Reply to Comment
        • andrew r

          “those bent on suicide get no sympathy from me”

          That’s kind of ironic given your avatar.

          Reply to Comment
      • It’s interesting that you see the emphasis on the soldiers’ youth as provocative and partisan. I see it as more sympathetic than anything. Have you ever been into the OPT and come into contact with conscripts? (I get the impression you’re overseas.) Their age is one of the most immediately obvious things about them. They receive the call-up at seventeen and they go into the army straight out of high school, after years of being groomed for this role (field trips to bases, etc. are positively the norm). Many of them will have never even lived away from home before. They go from being under the authority of their parents and class teachers to being under the authority of their officers. The fact that they have never been in a position to make major decisions for themselves is far from irrelevant. They aren’t especially noted for their great savoir-faire, and it shows. The militarisation of youth is an important point and I don’t see how raising it can be construed as confrontational. It’s just unavoidable, as it plays a part in how the occupation is maintained.

        Reply to Comment
        • Mruthkent

          excellent point. they are fresh cucumbers going in and pickles coming out.

          Reply to Comment
    3. ursula keller

      I find it very strange, that a soldier would shoot at somebody ,holding a gun at another soldiers head.It might be a little bit risky, no ? And how can the boy be shot from the front (belly and chest),when standing behind a soldier,holding the gun at his head ? Waiting for the video.On Facebook the IDF female got lots of praise “Queen”,”Princess”,”Role modell for Israeli women” etc…..Israel seems to have a new heroine .

      Reply to Comment
      • Rauna

        I guess she is a sharpshooter…

        Reply to Comment
    4. Greta Berlin

      And now the IOF is conveniently saying they have no video tape in spite of the fact that there are cameras all over the place.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yes, their next version will be that he tried to smother her with his cake.

        Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        If the IDF version were correct, they would have kept the cameras to verify her story. You only delete what makes you look bad.

        Reply to Comment
      • rsgengland

        Is this the same lady back on after posting that wonderfully ANTISEMITIC movie, and then trying to find any excuse to wiggle out of the ensuing expose.
        Your predjudices have been exposed by none other than yourself.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Danny

      I find it amusing how the female soldier is being referred to on nearly all media outlets – “the warrior” (lochemet in Hebrew).
      Looks like the IOF finally has a reason to smile – a female killer who shows the boys how it’s done. Never mind that she killed an unarmed teenager on his way to the bakery to get a birthday cake; an example is an example.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Khaled Khalid

      So Palestinian teenagers are in the habit of waving Toy Guns around at an trigger happy Israeli soldiers at Checkpoint?

      And, while the teenager held the Toy Gun at the Israeli Soldier’s head, the soldier was waiting for what to happen exactly from a toy gun?

      Something stinks here.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Guy

      Noam, maybe it is time to say, instead of “this occupation must end”… THIS OCCUPATION WILL END, or WE WILL END THIS OCCUPATION… come on, you are israeli, you can make something for real, maybe it is time to unify for real, the diplomacy showed it doesnt work for the palestinians in this US/Israeli monarchy, and the palestinian people alone with rocks and Kassams cant fight against your army… maybe it is time to take serious actions israeli left with the palestinians together.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Khaled Khalid

      Was the boy trying to make a Great Escape attempt? (Cue Leonard Bernstein’s music.)
      Was he on his way to get birthday cake suddenly overcome to do a Steve McQueen getaway on a motorbike? Get Away to where? Israeli Soldiers have a choke hold of the entire West Bank.

      Every Palestinian, young and old, knows how cheap their lives are to Israeli Soldiers. So walking up to a check point in the West Bank with a Toy Gun and for no apparent reason holding it at a soldier’s head would gain him what precisely?

      The only people who would believe the IDF version are Fox News Bubble Israelis and Washington DC.

      Reply to Comment
    9. The cameras were taken to prevent retribution or inflamation of the incident; and to preclude an alternative interpretation of events, and, perhaps, faked photos. If the IDF does not promptly release what footage they may have, the presumption of any court would be that they are suppressing evidence. If there was a court; only Israelis can decide a court must be. And, for that, they must admit their own fallibility.

      I will not cheer for a third Intifada. Many will die if, when it comes, and the Israeli electorate will become even more lost, with more almost 20 year olds thrown into ordered violence. But Palestinians must reply, must refuse the gag, somehow come out of their houses, humiliate the young soldiers with their simple presence. As if mothers came from their homes, sitting the streets, refusing, daily, to leave–for the streets are for their lives. Don’t let the angry men with memory control this. You’re going to have to show all of us what to do.

      It’s time for the nonmember Palestinian State to apply for standing before the ICC.

      Reply to Comment
    10. joe

      17 year old Border Police shoots 17 year old deaf boy carrying a cake. Israelis praise the Border Policewoman.


      Reply to Comment
    11. Sean Mullin

      I’m sure the IDF will hold a very fair investigation into the incident and the teenage soldier who according to one source I read was quite happy that no-one “on our side” was hurt by the toy gun will get a verbal warning, or a ticket to Costa Rica, or whatever passes for justice in the failed state of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Sean Mullin

      Its also very telling that this brave blogger won’t have his full name published, a sensible move in a state where truth tellers are victimized mercilessly by the state and by their own society. A contrast to the regular “occupation apologists” posters here on 972 who go by pseudo names by way of a twisted acceptance that their views are uncivilized and repellant.

      Reply to Comment
      • I think, Sean, that personal responsibility has been lost as avatars of greater entities. So there is no personal accounting, just hitting the other, often ethnic, side. And this infects the logic: the life of a 17 year old boy is set against all the lives taken by the “terrorists.” He is called a “terrorist” to emphasize how lop-sided the accounting mechanism is, in favor of those defining “terrorists.”

        However, on anonymity, I have often thought that the journalists publishing on this site in their full name may one day face socio-economic set backs. They have something beyond courage–resolve. It is rare.

        Reply to Comment
    13. The Trespasser

      Why that Palestinian was killed?

      It’s obvious now – to start another jihad – or intifada if you please.


      I only hope that this time Palestinians will get MUCH more than they could possibly handle.

      Reply to Comment
      • Thank you, Trespasser, for showing us exactly what kind of thought this site opposes.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          The website opposes thoughts?


          Well, I understand.

          It takes guts, knowledge and determination to oppose realistic threats, so your useless bunch is going to concentrate on other people’s thoughts.

          Orwell was rather right when he saw the greatest danger to the human kind in leftists and socialists.

          Reply to Comment
          • Elisabeth

            You and a few other commenters here keep surprising me. Maybe one day you will heal.I can’t imagine how and why someone can think in the way that you do.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser


            I see.
            Whatever you are not able to comprehend is libeled sick.

            Familiar pattern…

            Reply to Comment
    14. Been there

      There is a more believable story available on other websites, ie, that the border police were detaining a child with a toy gun ..and then planted this on the dead teenager..

      Reply to Comment
    15. Bryan

      He was killed because he attacked a border patrol officer. http://youtu.be/ybw9gT1oFpE

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        No cake.

        I wonder, why did he did it?

        Thought that he could go away with assaulting assaulting armed soldiers?

        Probably made some stupid bet.

        Reply to Comment
    16. Watcher465

      The Zionists on this site are out and out racist Nazis. Go comment on that rag the Jerusalem Post where you usually comment. And stop calling yourselves Semites. Racist Nazi, yes, Semite, no.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Click here to load previous comments