Israeli fire on Friday killed a Palestinian American teenager in the occupied West Bank, fueling increased scrutiny for President Joe Biden’s continued unconditional military support for the country currently accused at the global level of genocide.
Tawfiq Hafez Ajaq, 17, was fatally shot by Israeli fire east of Ramallah, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International-Palestine. Both Israeli soldiers and a settler reportedly opened fire, but it is still unclear who shot the bullets that killed the boy.
Tawfiq and his friend were inside his car during a barbecue in Al-Mazra’a Al-Sharqiya when an Israeli settler drove by and began firing live ammunition, according to DCIP. While the settler chased Tawfiq by car, an Israeli military vehicle reportedly appeared from the opposite direction and fired at the teen.
Tawfiq’s car veered off and overturned before Israeli forces surrounded him and, for 15 minutes, blocked men from getting the boy medical help, DCIP said. One of those men was Tawfiq’s relative, Joe Abdel Qaki, who said he and other Palestinians at the scene were briefly detained by Israeli forces who required identification from them before they could reach the teen.
Tawfiq was then transported to an ambulance, according to Abdel Qaki, where he died on the way to the hospital. The boy was reportedly shot once in the head and once in the chest.
“Palestinian children live in a hyper-militarized context where Israeli civilians illegally settled in occupied territory are armed by the Israeli government as a matter of official policy,” DCIP accountability program director Ayed Abu Eqtaish said in a statement.
“Israeli soldiers, police and private security staff not only protect Israeli settler populations, but they also aid, abet and perpetrate unlawful killings of Palestinians, including children.”
Relatives mourn 17-year-old American Tawfiq Ajaq at his funeral in his family’s Palestinian home village in Al-Mazra'a ash-Sharqiya, occupied West Bank, on Saturday. Ajaq was killed Friday by Israeli fire and police say they have launched an investigation.
Large groups of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank gathered on Saturday for Tawfiq’s funeral, where men carried the boy’s body wrapped in a Palestinian flag and surrounded by flowers. At the funeral, Tawfiq’s father demanded Americans “see with their own eyes” the ongoing massacre of Palestinians at the hands of “killer machines.”
“The American society does not know the true story,” Hafez Ajaq said. “They are using our tax dollars in the U.S. to support the weapons to kill our own children. How many fathers and mothers have to say goodbye to their children? How many more?”
Tawfiq is also a U.S. citizen, born and raised in a Louisiana town near New Orleans called Gretna. The boy’s parents brought him and his siblings to Al-Mazra’a Al-Sharqiya, their ancestral village, last year so they could reconnect with their Palestinian heritage.
Muslim Americans in New Orleans also held a vigil for Tawfiq this weekend at the Masjid Omar mosque, according to NOLA.com. The teen would spend Friday nights playing basketball with friends at the mosque, and planned to return to New Orleans to study engineering in college, his loved ones told the outlet.
“Some teenagers are rude or defiant. He is one of the good ones,” the mosque’s president Nabil Abukhader told NOLA.com, adding that Tawfiq was “full of life.”
Asked on Friday about Tawfiq’s killing, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. is “seriously concerned about these reports.”
“The information is scant at this time. We don’t have perfect context about exactly what happened here. Seriously concerned about it,” he said. “And we’re going to be in constant touch with counterparts in the region to get more information. But it’s definitely deeply concerning. But I’m afraid I don’t have more information to that right now.”
"Come & see with your own eyes.. how many fathers & mothers have to say goodbye to their children"
Father of 17 year old Tawfiq Ajaq, a Palestinian-American shot dead by Israeli forces in the West-bank today.
Had it been an Israeli-American, the Biden team would be in mourning. pic.twitter.com/HFUXU2OncF
— Rami Jarrah (@RamiJarrah) January 21, 2024
Tawfiq is one of 369 people killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank since Oct. 7, 2023, including 95 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The U.S. has given unconditional military support to Israel in its stated attempt to eradicate Hamas militants in Gaza, but has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scale back the violence in the occupied West Bank, where Hamas is not stationed.
Kirby said it’s unlikely that Biden brought up Tawfiq’s killing during his call with Netanyahu this weekend. Israeli police said they would investigate the incident, though the country’s probes of Palestinians being killed have rarely resulted in timely reports or indictments.
Nihad Awad, the national executive director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement on Friday that Tawfiq’s death “again shows that President Biden’s unwillingness to call for an end to the ongoing Israeli genocide and ethnic cleansing is resulting in the deaths of Americans citizens and their relatives.”
“The Biden administration has consistently shown its disregard for the killing and injuring of Americans of Palestinian descent,” Awad continued. “How many Palestinians must die before the Biden administration does what it would do for any other people similarly targeted by genocide?”