Relatives accuse the Israeli army of scaring Rayan Suleiman, 7, to death, a shocking incident in the occupied West Bank condemned by Palestinian Foreign Ministry as Israeli "ugly crime."

Palestinians and human rights groups say the Israeli army is incapable of investigating wrongdoing by its forces and that soldiers are rarely held accountable.
Palestinians and human rights groups say the Israeli army is incapable of investigating wrongdoing by its forces and that soldiers are rarely held accountable. (Reuters)

A seven-year-old Palestinian boy has died of heart failure while being chased by Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank, his father said, an account disputed by the Israeli army while the US voiced sorrow at the incident and encouraged an investigation.

Relatives said on Thursday that Rayan Suleiman had no previous health problems and accused the army of scaring the child to death.

Israel called the death a tragedy and said its soldiers were not to blame.

Mohammed Suleiman, a 22-year-old cousin, said Rayan was shrieking in fear at the sight of Israeli soldiers and his parents shouted, "come here," to calm him down.

He said after the soldiers left, the boy collapsed, adding that Rayan had been healthy. 

The boy was coming home from school with other pupils in the village of Tuqu when troops gave chase, and he "died on the spot from fear," his father Yasser said in a video circulated on social media.

He said Rayan was vomiting blood in the car after collapsing and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"He was martyred from the fear of them," the father told Palestine TV.

A medical official who inspected the body told the Reuters news agency that it bore no sign of physical trauma and that the death appeared consistent with heart failure. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned the incident as "an ugly crime" by Israel.

READ MORE: Israeli troops kill Palestinian teacher in occupied West Bank

US supports 'thorough investigation'

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesperson, said "there was no violence, no entry into the house."

In Washington, the State Department's deputy spokesperson, 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.

Palestinians and human rights groups say the Israeli army is incapable of investigating wrongdoing by its forces and that soldiers are rarely held accountable.

Palestinian social media were awash with photos of Rayan superimposed over the golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, with Palestinians declaring him a "martyr" and condemning Israel for his death.

The boy was scheduled to be buried on Friday.

The funeral comes at a time of rising violence in the occupied West Bank, fuelled by Israeli raids and arrests. 

Deadliest flashpoint

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

It was the deadliest episode since Israel launched its crackdown earlier this year.

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

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and has since then illegally stationed about 500,000 settlers there. 

READ MORE: Is Israel ‘denationalising’ Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies