The bereaved father of Tawfiq Ajaq, a 17-year-old American whose life was tragically cut short by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank, vehemently criticized the United States’ unwavering military support for Israel during the poignant funeral ceremony in the family’s ancestral Palestinian village. The untimely death of Tawfiq Ajaq on Friday prompted immediate concern from the White House, with Israeli police pledging to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.
This unfortunate event adds to the grim tally of fatal shootings in the West Bank, where the toll has reached nearly 370 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since the commencement of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza over three months ago. The Biden administration has consistently expressed apprehension regarding the escalating violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in recent months.
In the midst of Saturday’s funeral proceedings, Tawfiq’s father seized the opportunity to denounce the enduring U.S. support for Israel, describing Israeli forces as “killer machines” fueled by American tax dollars, which, he lamented, are utilized to procure weapons responsible for claiming the lives of Palestinian children.
Tawfiq Ajaq, originally hailing from Gretna, Louisiana, near New Orleans, had been relocated to the village of Al-Mazra’a Ash-Sharqiya by his parents just last year, with the intention of fostering a reconnection with his Palestinian cultural roots. The funeral, marked by crowds of mourners traversing the village streets, saw the teen’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, carried on a stretcher by men through the grief-stricken community.
Hafez Ajaq, the grieving father, implored Americans to bear witness to the ongoing violence in the West Bank, asserting that the American society remains unaware of the true extent of the situation. He urged individuals to come to the region and witness firsthand the heartbreaking reality of families bidding farewell to their children, questioning how many more such heart-wrenching scenes would unfold.
Details surrounding the circumstances of the fatal shooting remain shrouded in uncertainty. According to Tawfiq’s relative, Joe Abdel Qaki, the young man and a friend were engaged in a barbecue in a village field when Israeli gunfire struck, inflicting fatal wounds to Tawfiq’s head and chest. Abdel Qaki, who arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, revealed that Israeli forces briefly detained him and other Palestinians, checking their IDs before allowing them to transport Tawfiq to an ambulance. Unfortunately, Tawfiq succumbed to his injuries in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Israeli police reported receiving a Friday report regarding a “firearm discharge” involving an off-duty law enforcement officer, a soldier, and a civilian. While the police did not identify the shooter, they indicated that the incident targeted individuals allegedly involved in rock-throwing activities along Highway 60, the primary north-south thoroughfare in the West Bank, near the village of Al-Mazra’a Ash-Sharqiya.
Given the gravity of the situation, U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby expressed the White House’s serious concern, emphasizing the need for more information. Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7, Israeli forces have intensified their operations in the West Bank, conducting frequent nightly arrest raids targeting suspected militants.
The Palestinian Health Ministry has reported a staggering toll of 369 Palestinians killed in the West Bank since October 7. The majority of these casualties occurred during shootouts that the Israeli military contends arose during operations to apprehend Palestinian gunmen. Notably, there have been documented instances where Israeli forces and settlers have been implicated in the killing of Palestinians not engaged in violent activities.
The United States has consistently provided military and diplomatic support to Israel in its conflict with Hamas. While endorsing Israel’s stance, the U.S. has simultaneously urged a moderation in the intensity of Israeli attacks. The toll on Palestinians in Gaza has been severe, with almost 25,000 reported casualties so far in Israel’s offensive, as per Gaza health officials. Israel had captured the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Palestinians aspire to establish an independent state in these territories.