The family of Maram Abu Ismail, a 25-year-old Palestinian woman who was believed to be five-months pregnant, said Thursday that Israeli troops shot both her and her 16-year old brother Ibrahim Taha dead Wednesday.
Speaking to Palestinian media, the family said Maram was five months pregnant at the time of her death as Palestinian authorities confirmed the two were on their way to a medical appointment in Jerusalem after obtaining an Israeli permit to do so.
However, Israeli police claim the woman was holding a knife and was rapidly walking toward police and other Israeli security personnel in a vehicles-only lane at the Qalandia checkpoint outside Jerusalem.
In an official statement, the Palestinian Information Ministry said the siblings entered the vehicles-only lane by accident and their killing was a "brutal daylight crime" by Israeli forces.
Witnesses also refute Israeli claims, saying the two Palestinians began moving away from the lane when the troops asked them to. One witness told local media that Maram was shot 15 times by an Israeli soldier.
Alaa Soboh, a Palestinian bus driver who said he witnessed the incident, told Reuters the pair appeared to be unfamiliar with crossing procedures.
"As soon as the two crossed, (Israeli forces) started screaming 'Go back, go back,' and then they began shooting. The first one they shot was the girl ... the boy tried to go backward when they fired seven bullets at him," Soboh said.
A Palestinian local and witness to the incident, Ahmad Taha, told the Ma’an news agency that Israeli officers approached the two after they had been shot before opening fire on them again “to ensure that they were dead,” adding the officers “could have moved the two away without opening fire.” Taha also claimed the officers planted knives on the scene.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since last October as part of renewed violence in the Palestinian occupied West Bank. Many of those killed did not pose a threat to Israeli troops and were shot during clashes and protests.
Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli rights group B'Tselem said Thursday his group often finds the "degree of threat posed by the individual was much lower than was claimed by security forces."
The latest round of unrest between Israel and Palestine was sparked by successive incursions by hard-line Israeli groups into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, as well as the struggling peace process and the continued illegal expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Aid groups say Israeli troops are using excessive force against alleged Palestinian attackers, saying they could easily neutralize any threat without having to apply deadly force.
Even Israel’s biggest ally, the United States, has accused the Israeli army of “excessive use of force” in the Palestinian territories as well as “arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse, often with impunity,” in a U.S. State Department report released last week.