British forensic experts publicized on Monday, June 3, the final chapter of an investigation into a deadly incident that took place at an Arab-Bedouin village in the Negev on January 18, 2017, in which two persons were killed.
The two fatalities occurred during the evacuation of the village of Umm al-Hiran by the Israeli security forces ahead of its planned demolition. The dead were a local Bedouin teacher, Yacoub Mousa Abu al-Qee’an, 47, who was fatally shot by police when, according to allegations by right-wing politicians and other officials, he purposely ran his car into a group of officers, killing Sgt. Erez Levy. These allegations contended that Abu al-Qee’an was deliberately carrying out a “terrorist attack.”
The conclusions of the new investigation, headed by Prof. Eyal Weizman of Goldsmiths, University of London, were based on photographs and video footage from journalists’ cameras (including stills taken by the Activestills collective), local residents and left-wing activists who were present during the evacuation, and from a police helicopter.
These materials, backed by digital analyses conducted by the research agency Forensic Architecture (FA), support the assertions by the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police, as well as of the Shin Bet security service, that Abu al-Qee’an was not attempting to ram Levy and the other offices in an act of terrorism. The work by FA also supports the contentions of Hadash-Ta’al Chairman MK Ayman Odeh’s that he was hit by a police’s sponge-tipped bullet at the scene after the vehicular ramming of the police and the shooting of the Bedouin teacher who was driving the car.
The authors of the report say the police investigation department of the Justice Ministry failed to give Odeh’s lawyers three videos taken by the police at Umm al-Hiran, which would have shed light on the incident. In addition, they note, that the written transcript of testimonies by policemen does not include statements relating to the injury of MK Odeh. Last year, one video clip from taken by the police was broadcast on Israel’s Channel 10 television, but the footage was edited to omit the final seconds before Odeh was injured.
“Our analysis shows unequivocally that this wasn’t a terror attack or anything resembling one,” Haaretz was told by Prof. Eyal Weizman, head of Forensic Architecture.
Weizman explained that Abu al-Qee’an’s car rammed Levi because the driver lost control of it after being shot and seriously wounded. As a result, Abu al-Qee’an bled to death, without any of the police officers attempting to provide him with emergency medical care. This fact underscores the importance of the incident with Odeh, Weizman added, “Since he and other activists were nearby and sought to reach Abu al-Qee’an to give him first aid, which could have saved his life.”
In light of evidence obtained from the Shin Bet, at one point the Justice Ministry department recommended that one of the police officers who opened fire be questioned as a criminal suspect in the death of Abu al-Qee’an. However, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan dismissed this recommendation, after he apparently caved in to pressure from the police commissioner who doubled down on his baseless accusation that Abu al-Qee’an “was a terrorist.”
Weizman blamed the Justice Ministry department, saying that had its personnel “dealt with the evidence the way we dealt with it, they would have clearly seen that the police were responsible for the deaths of Abu al-Qee’an and Erez Levi, as well as for Odeh’s serious injuries.” Instead, Weizman continued, “What we witnessed were repeated attempts to manipulate the evidence, including by not handing it over” to those representing Odeh and the Abu al-Qee’an family.
In response to the release of the final report, MK Odeh said on Tuesday, June 4: “Given the results of this investigation, Israel must officially clear Abu al-Qee’an of all guilt and apologize to his family for the false accusations hurled at him. It must also compensate the family for the fact that he was shot, wounded and bled to death without being offered medical care that might have saved his life as well as for the smearing of his reputation and his memory, which exacerbated the crime of his killing. Finally, it must investigate everyone involved, both those who fired the shots and those who perpetrated the cover-up, and see to the prosecution of everyone responsible for the scandalous handling of this painful affair.”
- Arab-Bedouin, Policeman Killed in Umm al-Hiran, MK Odeh Injured
- MK Odeh Demands Independent Inquiry into Umm al-Hiran Death
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