American teen killed in West Bank, leaving mosque ‘devastated’ back home

A Palestinian American teenager was fatally shot in the head in the West Bank, a family member told The Washington Post on Saturday.

Tawfic Hafeth Abdel Jabbar, a 17-year-old who grew up in the New Orleans area, was killed Friday, according to his relative Hakam Al Zabin.

The State Department confirmed that an American civilian had died, though it said that it is still examining the circumstances of the death in the West Bank.

Israeli police said that the incident involved an off-duty law enforcement officer, a soldier and a civilian and that they were launching a “comprehensive investigation.” The Israel Police media office said in an unsigned statement that gunfire was reported after apparent “rock-throwing activities.”

The Washington Post could not immediately confirm the circumstances of what happened, including whether Abdel Jabbar was throwing rocks.

Abdel Jabbar had attended high school in the New Orleans area and was a member of Masjid Omar in Harvey, La., according to Nabil Abukhader, the mosque’s president.

“The whole community and our mosque are devastated by the news,” Abukhader told The Post.

He criticized the Biden administration for its support of Israel’s war against Hamas, which the Gaza Health Ministry said has killed about 25,000 people there after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people in an Oct. 7 attack on Israel. In the West Bank, Israeli forces have intensified raids on Palestinians, destroyed houses and displaced more than 1,200 people, The Post reported last month.

Abukhader called for an end to the fighting “so all these kids — whether they are Arab, Muslim, Israeli, Jewish, Christian — have the chance to have a life, to help society and be good citizens.”

Abdel Jabbar was a second-generation American born in Louisiana, according to Abukhader. He moved to the West Bank in May with his father, mother and siblings for his senior year of high school. His family, Abukhader said, wanted the teen to better connect to his heritage and improve his Arabic language skills.

Abdel Jabbar hoped to return to the United States and attend the University of New Orleans or a community college, maybe to study business management.

“He used to come in Friday nights and play basketball with his classmates and friends,” Abukhader said.

The mosque planned to hold a vigil Saturday evening with classmates and relatives, who found out about his death through news articles and other family members.

On Friday, one classmate was in disbelief.

“Are you sure he died?” Abukhader recounted her asking. “Are you sure that’s our Tawfic?”

This is a developing story that will be updated. Andrew Jeong and Itay Stern contributed to this report.

Israel-Gaza war

U.S. naval forces launched three additional strikes against Houthi forces in Yemen on Friday morning, targeting anti-ship missiles, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. In the Gaza Strip, internet and cellphone communications were gradually restored, ending a week-long outage that kept most of the territory’s 2.1 million people cut off, amid a war and humanitarian crisis.

Pakistan launched retaliatory strikes Thursday on militants in Iran, its Foreign Ministry said, as tensions in the Middle East appeared to be spreading.

Oct. 7 attack: Hamas spent more than a year planning its assault on Israel. A Washington Post video analysis shows how Hamas exploited vulnerabilities created by Israel’s reliance on technology at the “Iron Wall,” the security barrier bordering the Gaza Strip, to carry out the deadliest attack in Israel’s history. Stock traders earned millions of dollars anticipating the Hamas attack, a study found.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has a complicated history. Understand what’s behind the Israel-Gaza war and read about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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