Palestinian boy dies of heart attack ‘after being chased by Israeli soldiers’

Rayan Suleiman

Palestinians in the West Bank have buried a seven-year-old boy a day after his parents say he died from fear of armed Israeli soldiers.

Rayan Suleiman was walking home from school yesterday when his family said he and his brothers were chased by Israeli soldiers.

They said the troops banged furiously on the door and threatened to arrest them. Just moments later, Rayan, the youngest of the three brothers, was dead.

Rayan’s cousin, Mohammed Suleiman, told Al Jazeera that upon his arrival at his house, Rayan was chased by the soldiers who were yelling at him.

“The soldiers shouted at him that he’s [a] stone thrower,” he said. “He ran away from one side, and the soldier met him from the other side [of the house]. Rayan saw the soldier in front of him, and was shocked and dropped dead out of fear,” he said.

Yasser Suleiman, Rayan’s father, also told The Associated Press news agency that Rayan had collapsed after he saw the Israeli soldiers who chased him appear at his front door.

The boy’s father said the soldiers threatened to return and arrest all three children, including Rayan’s older brothers, aged eight and 10. Amid the chaos, Rayan fell on the floor, unconscious.

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Doctors at a hospital in Beit Jala could not resuscitate him. A paediatric specialist, Mohamed Ismail, said Rayan was healthy and had no previous medical conditions.

“The most probable scenario of what happened is that under stress, he had excess adrenaline secretion, which caused the increase of his heartbeat,” Ismail said. “He developed cardiac arrest.”

A forensic doctor is currently conducting an autopsy on Rayan.

The Israeli military has denied any violence in the interaction with Rayan’s family, saying that just one officer went to the family’s house after spotting children throwing stones.

Richard Hecht, a military spokesman, said the officer spoke in a “very calm manner” with Rayan’s father and left. “There was no violence, no entry into the house,” Hecht said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is calling on Israel to open a “thorough” investigation into the death of the 7-year-old.

The State Department’s deputy spokesman, Vedant Patel, said the United States was “heartbroken 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.

Rayan’s funeral comes at a time of rising violence in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, four Palestinians were killed and 44 wounded during an Israeli military raid in the northern West Bank town of Jenin.

Israel has been conducting nightly arrest raids, primarily in the northern West Bank, since a series of Palestinian attacks in Israel last spring. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed, making this the deadliest year in the occupied territory since 2015.

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