JERUSALEM: Israel and the Palestinians were at odds last night (Wednesday) over the shooting of a 19-year-old woman, as activists contradicted soldiers' assertions that she had attacked them with a knife.
The death of Hadeel al-Hashlamun, a Palestinian student, came under intense scrutiny after photographs and video footage emerged of the confrontation between her and two soldiers at a check-point in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The shooting triggered clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in the city yesterday as thousands of mourners gathered for the funeral.
Miss Hashlamun was shot several times at a checkpoint at around 7.35am on Tuesday as she tried to enter Shehuda Street, a volatile neighbourhood that is home to several hundred Jewish settlers.
The Israeli army said the soldiers opened fire after she tried to stab one of them, having ignored orders to stop.
That account was challenged by Youth Against Settlements (YAS), a Palestinian monitoring group, which - citing witnesses - disputed the claim that Miss Hashlamun had a knife and said she had become frightened after soldiers demanded that she lift up her niqab for inspection.
The YAS claims prompted the army to release a photograph of what it said was the knife lying on the ground near the scene of the shooting. "The perpetrator approached the checkpoint and the metal detector was activated, alerting the troops' suspicion," an army spokesman said in an accompanying statement.
"Forces at the scene asked her to stop, at which point she approached the forces, disregarding the instructions and raising further suspicion.
"Forces called for her to halt, which she ignored, and she continued moving while also pulling out a knife. At this point, forces fired at the ground, then at her lower extremities in attempts to stop her advancement.
"The perpetrator continued and at this point, recognising a clear and present danger to their safety, the forces fired towards her."
The Israeli explanation of Miss Hashlamun's death was intended to counter more than a dozen images posted by YAS on its Facebook page.
The photographs showed Miss Hashlamun, dressed in black and with her back to the camera, facing two soldiers pointing their guns at her. Several of the images show the soldiers with facial expressions suggesting they may have felt under threat. The Palestinian woman's body language appears passive. None of the pictures shows evidence of her holding a knife.
Issa Amro, director of Youth Against Settlements, said: "The army spokeswoman said she had a knife and attempted to stab the soldiers, but the photos we have show she was moving away from the soldiers and was shot when she was moving away."
"Witnesses told me she arrived at the checkpoint and a soldier asked in Hebrew to check her physically. She refused. I don't know exactly, but I think they asked her to raise up her niqab. For her that would have been unacceptable."
Mr Amro said five soldiers opened fire. "They shot her in the legs and she continued moving back. She fell down and the soldiers shot her as she fell."
The death came amid renewed hostilities over Jerusalem's most sensitive religious site, the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam and also sacred to Jews as the Temple Mount. Israeli forces were on high alert as Jews marked Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, before Palestinians prepared to celebrate the start of the Muslim Eid-al-Adha festival later in the day.