Washington, MINA – The US State Department is calling on Israel to open a “thorough” investigation into the mysterious death of a 7-year-old Palestinian boy named Rayan Yasser Suleiman, who collapsed and died on Thursday, shortly after Israeli soldiers came to his home in the occupied West Bank.
Quoted from Nahar Net on Saturday, relatives said Rayan had no previous health problems and accused the army of scaring the child to death. The Israeli military called the death a tragedy and said its soldiers were not to blame.
The incident adds to rising tensions in the West Bank, where Israeli forces have carried out daily arrest raids that have often escalated into deadly violence in recent months.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian village boys were seen throwing stones at a speeding car on a highway near the Israeli settlement of Tekoa, which is close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. Later, relatives said that soldiers were banging on the door and wanted to arrest Rayan’s older brother for allegedly throwing stones.
Mohammed Suleiman, a 22-year-old cousin, said Rayan screamed in terror when he saw the soldiers and his parents shouting “come here,” to calm him down. He says after soldiers left, the boy fainted. He says Rayan has been well.
The boy’s father, Yasser Suleiman, said Rayan tried to escape when soldiers said they wanted to arrest his brothers and were chased by soldiers. He said Rayan vomited blood in the car after collapsing and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“He was martyred because he was afraid of them,” the father told Palestine TV.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said a senior officer at the scene went to the house after seeing one of the stone-throwers on the balcony and told his father to make the children stop throwing stones at motorists. He said the officer spoke “very calmly” and left.
“No violence, no entry into the house,” Hecht said.
In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said the United States was “deeply saddened to learn of the death of an innocent Palestinian child.”
“We support a thorough and immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death,” Patel said.
Hecht said the investigation was continuing.
Palestinians and human rights groups say the army is incapable of investigating wrongdoing by its troops and soldiers are rarely held accountable.
Palestinian social media was flooded with photos of Rayan superimposed on the Dome of the Golden Rock in Jerusalem, with Palestinians declaring him a “martyr” and condemning Israel for his death. (T/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)