Arab-Bedouin Teacher Shot by Police in 2017 Was Left to Die

Newly released evidence from the investigation into a deadly incident on January 18,2017 in the Arab-Bedouin town of Umm al-Hiran allegedly shows that a local resident was unlawfully shot and then left to bleed to death, because police mistakenly accused him of committing a car-ramming attack.

Israeli police stand next to the vehicle belonging to Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qee’an that rammed into officers in the Arab-Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, January 18, 2017.

Israeli police stand next to the vehicle belonging to Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qee’an that rammed into officers in the Arab-Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, January 18, 2017. (Photo: Israel Police)

In 2018, the State Attorney’s Office closed an investigation into the incident, saying it could not determine whether Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qee’an was wrongfully shot and killed by police. Subsequently, the Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) closed its case against officers who had assaulted Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, during the planned evacuation of the of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, the day that Al-Qee’anwas killed. In response to the closing of the latter case, Odeh said that once again the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct “has excelled in covering up what actually happened and has failed in putting the police officers on trial for violence against civilians. The police knew I was a Knesset member during the incident and chose from the very start of the investigation to lie concerning the use of tear gas and the fact that I was hit with a sponge-tipped bullet too. The closing of the case, after over a year and a half from the time of the incident, is worrying and proves that there is no true intention whatsoever to investigate what really happened.”

The new details were published Saturday night, February 22, by several Israeli news outlets, and appeared to have been based on an examination by physicist and biologist Dr. Ariel Livne of forensic material provided by the Shin Bet Security Service and the PIID. Dr. Maya Forman, who heads the National Institute of Forensic Medicine, determined the cause of death to be “failure to receive medical treatment.” The autopsy report said: “Bleeding from the blood vessels that were damaged in this case does not cause immediate death, and could cause death within dozens of minutes. Professor Raphael Walden, deputy director of Sheba Medical Center and leading member of Physicians for Human Rights, said he was shocked when he saw the report. “A simple dressing of the wound could have saved his life. This was external bleeding, not internal.”

Demands to Reopen the Investigation

The conclusions are being used by two human rights groups that are legally representing Abu Al-Qee’an’s family, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), as the basis for a petition they say they will be filing this week to the High Court of Justice. The organizations said in a statement Saturday that they would demand that a criminal investigation be reopened into the conduct of the police officers and medics at the scene, and that Abu-Al Qee’an be formally cleared of the “terrorist” branding. Immediately after the incident, far-right Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had asserted that Abu al-Qee’an was an “Islamic State-inspired terrorist who was shot because he accelerated his vehicle toward a group of police officers, killing Levi.”

However, video footage that emerged in the hours after the incident showed the officers opened fire before Abu al-Qee’an sped up, and that his car’s lights were on during the predawn incident, contrary to earlier police assertions. A Channel 10 report at the time said Abu Al-Qee’an’s autopsy further revealed that a police bullet hit him in the right knee, shattering it, and possibly causing the car to accelerate.

MK Odeh said in a statement Saturday. “A civilian and a policeman were unnecessarily killed, but the investigation was closed without a criminal investigation. The police commissioner and the public security minister claimed publicly that this was a terror attack, in spite of all the evidence. This affair is a watershed in the relationship between the police and the Arab-Bedouin population in particular and the Israel public in general. In order to begin to repair this fraught relationship, we must first of all return to Umm al-Hiran, bring the policemen to justice, and provide the families of the victims with redress.”

US Bars Entry to Israeli Researcher

An analysis made by the Forensic Architecture group also contradicted Israel’s claims that Abu al-Qee’an was attempting to attack police with his car when officers shot him during a home demolition raid in Umm al-Hiran in January 2017. Forensic Architecture’s findings indicate that Abu al-Qiyan was driving slowly and that his vehicle only accelerated after he was shot at by police, suggesting he had lost control of his car.

Last week US authorities denied entry into the United States to Prof. Eyal Weizman, founder of the research group Forensic Architecture. Forensic Architecture, based in the UK, uses groundbreaking methodologies such as digital forensics and spatial analysis to expose human rights abuses. The group has published several investigations concerning Israeli violations against Palestinians. Weizman, who holds Israeli and British passports, was due to travel to the US for the opening of Forensic Architecture’s first major exhibition in the country at Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design. The exhibition, titled “Forensic Architecture: True to Scale,” opened on Thursday, February 20, and is schedule to run through late September. The exhibition includes new findings concerning the brutal beating by Israeli soldiers of Faisal al-Natsheh in the West Bank city of Hebron in 2014. Weizman had also intended to use his trip to the US to advance an investigation into a Florida detention center where migrant children are held in cruel conditions.

Amnesty International has suggested that political bias may have informed the decision to bar Weizman from entering the US, noting a “long history of ideological exclusion to keep Americans from being exposed to dissident viewpoints.” Forensic Architecture is planning its first exhibition in Israel to be held at “Hagada Hasmalit” Alternative Cultural Center in Tel Aviv.

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