Muntaser al-Shawa is the eleventh Palestinian youth to be killed by Israel this year, and the latest martyr in Israel’s war on Palestinian children and minors.
On Monday, February 20, 16-year-old Muntaser Shawa succumbed to wounds sustained during an Israeli military incursion of Balata refugee camp in northern Nablus earlier on February 8.
Shawa’s family and community took the slain teenager to his final resting place near Balata refugee camp on February 21. Since the beginning of the year, Israeli forces and settlers have killed 50 Palestinians. Shawa is the eleventh youth to be killed by the Israeli army this year.
The Israeli targeting of youth
On February 8, during an Israeli invasion of Balata refugee camp, Shawa was injured with a live bullet shot by an Israeli sniper, which pierced his ear and exited from his mouth. Another Palestinian man was injured with two bullets to his hand.
Shawa was put on a ventilator for almost two weeks before he was declared dead at 6:45 p.m. on Monday, in Nablus’s Rafidia hospital.
On Tuesday afternoon, Shawa’s mother carried her son on her back as he was wrapped in a Palestinian flag.
In a video showing the family’s final farewell to their son, the bereaved mother and aunts chanted “Allahu Akbar,” (God is Great), a mantra often echoed in times of hardship as a show of humility and a recognition of the impermanence of life.
“Our martyred children,” his aunt yelled in a crowd of women, “their killers will find their place in hell.”
🇵🇸 "Sacrificed for Al-Aqsa, sacrificed for #Palestine. We don't want to scream, let him take pleasure in it (martyrdom). Praise be to God, he asked for it (martyrdom) and got it."...— Pal Cyber News (@PalCyberNews) February 21, 2023
The mother of the martyr Montaser Shawa 💔🇵🇸✊#israeliTerrorism #FreePalestine pic.twitter.com/UbLfHLMtMV
With Shawa, the number of Palestinian children and minors killed this year rises to 11 with the youngest being Qusai Radwan, 14, killed in Jenin refugee camp on February 12, and Amer Khmour, also 14, killed in Dheisheh refugee camp on January 16.
Shawa is the second minor to be killed in Balata refugee camp this year. Amer Abu Zaytoun, 16, was killed on January 5 with a bullet to the head.
Shawa suffered his injury just one day after Palestinians buried 17-year-old Hamza Amjad Al-Ashqar in Askar refugee camp at the outskirts of Nablus.
Last year was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the UN began documenting Palestinian deaths in 2005. The average age of Palestinian minors killed in 2022 was 13.
Averaging the number of Palestinian children and minors killed since 2021, data shows that a child or minor was being killed every five days in the last two years. In 2021, more than half of the Palestinian minors killed were children 12-years-old or younger. The remaining 45% were teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17.
Dehumanizing and ‘un-childing’ Palestinian children
The Israeli approach to Palestinian children as assumed potential threats to Israel’s occupation has proved lethal for children and minors.
In addition to killings, Palestinian children and minors also face the risk of imprisonment. According to Defense for Children International-Palestine, Israel is “the only country in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections.”
One day before Shawa finally succumbed to his wounds, the Times of Israel published a blog with the title “Palestinian children are the explosives of the future.” In extensive research and analysis, Palestinian professor and psychologist Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian referred to this phenomenon as the “politics of un-childing.”
Shalhoub-Kevorkian, one of the leading psychologists on the case of Ahmad Manasra, explains un-childing as “the authorized eviction of children from childhood for political goals and is maintained by a violent, racist, sexist, and classist machinery that exists everywhere and always.”
In this way, Palestinian children are seen not as people, but as instruments and potential threats to be quelled.
One of the testimonies upon which Shalhoub-Kevorkian draws is that of Mahmoud, a child who was targeted by Israeli forces in Jerusalem as he rode his skateboard.
“I don’t fear them…What can they do? Kill me because I want to play, to live?” Mahmoud had relayed to Shalhoub-Kevorkian. “Let them kill me, this is all they can do, and the news would say, ‘Mahmoud went down to play with his skateboard; he scared them, and they killed him.’”