RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Preliminary autopsy findings show that a Palestinian teen killed during a lull in a West Bank confrontation between stone throwers and Israeli troops was shot dead by live ammunition, two human rights groups said Thursday.
The Israeli military has denied use of live ammunition in the May 15 incident, insisting troops only used rubber-coated steel pellets, a standard means of crowd control. Troops are only permitted to use live ammunition in life-threatening situations.
Two 17-year-old teens, Nadim Nawara and Mohammed Salameh, were killed that day, during intermittent confrontations between several dozen Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli troops on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Beitouniya.
The teens were killed in the same spot but more than an hour apart. Their deaths drew worldwide attention in part because their final moments were captured by security cameras. In each case, the footage showed the teen walking in the street, a few meters from a wall where others were taking cover.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said at the time the teens posed no threat to soldiers, raising "grave suspicions" that they were victims of wilful shootings. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she was aware of the reports that Nawara was killed by live fire and expressed condolences to his family.
"We remain deeply concerned by the incident and are closely following the Israeli investigation," she told reporters in Washington. Nawara's body was exhumed Wednesday for an autopsy at a Palestinian forensics institute.
The autopsy was performed by the chief Palestinian pathologist and was attended by two Israeli pathologists, including the head of Israel's main forensics institute, as well as two colleagues from the U.S. and Denmark, said Sarit Michaeli of B'Tselem and Shahwan Jabareen of the Palestinian rights group Al Haq.
Michaeli and Jabareen said they were told by some of the participating pathologists that Nawara's body was in surprisingly good condition. They said the pathologists found entry and exit wounds as well as four lead fragments, all signs of live fire injuries.
"From the results it's ... 100 percent clear that it is live ammunition, a live bullet," said Jabareen. Rubber bullets generally don't penetrate the body, except through soft openings such as eyes, and especially not at longer distances.
B'Tselem has said Israeli troops were 70 meters and 200 meters (yards) from the stone-throwers in the two cases. It is not clear when the official autopsy report will be published. Jabareen said that while the five pathologists agree on the main finding, they want to issue a single detailed report and that this would take time.
The main Israeli forensics institute and the Israeli military declined to comment on the autopsy findings.