17-year-old Louisiana native Tawfic Abdeljabbar moved to the occupied West Bank last year with family to connect with his Palestinian roots. On January 19, Abdeljabbar was reportedly shot in the head and killed by an off-duty Israeli police officer and soldier. Over a hundred days from the start of Israel’s war on Gaza following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, in which over 25,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, Palestinian officials say this weekend saw one of the deadliest 24-hour stretches of the war thus far, with at least 178 Palestinians killed.
At a Saturday vigil in the New Orleans area, Tawfic Abdeljabbar’s cousin, who asked not to be named, told NOLA.com they heard from family in the West Bank that Tawfic and friends were driving outside Ramallah then heard gunshots. Tawfic’s cousin told NOLA.com that he tried to drive away as his friends ran off, “when he was struck in the back of the head.” Abdeljabbar’s family told the New York Times that his car was targeted by off-duty Israeli police and Israeli settlers. The Israeli police confirmed to the Times that “an off-duty officer and an Israeli civilian” were involved, claiming that the incident involved rock-throwing, and they were “investigating.”
“They are using our tax dollars in the U.S. to support the weapons to kill our own children,” Abdeljabbar’s father, Hafez Ajaq, said at a funeral for Tawfic in the West Bank. “The American society does not know the true story… Come here on the ground and see what’s going on ... How many fathers and mothers have to say goodbye to their children? How many more?”
Abdeljabbar’s community in Louisiana mourned his killing over the weekend, reminiscing over his dreams and aspirations. Nabil Abukhader, president of the Masjid Omar mosque and principal at one of Abdeljabbar’s former schools, recalled the 17-year-old as a “very, very polite and respectful boy,” a constant presence on Fridays for games of basketball in the mosque’s parking lot. “It’s like there’s a missing piece,” he told NOLA.com.
“They demolished his dreams, not just his life. Instead of having produced a productive citizen, our tax money sent him to the grave. This is not right,” Abukhader said. “Our administration should stand firm to stop this genocide. And we should use our money and our influence to spread peace everywhere, for everybody.”
Stay up-to-date with the politics team. Sign up for the Teen Vogue Take
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue
Want more U.S. government coverage?