Jerusalem24 – Israel’s State Prosecutor has closed the case of an Israeli settler who stabbed and killed 27-year-old Palestinian Ali Harb.
The State Prosecutor released a statement on Thursday saying “the decision was made to close the case since the claim of self-defense could not be ruled out.”
Ali Harb’s family were informed of the decision on Thursday.
Ali Hassan Harb was stabbed in the chest by the unnamed settler while on his family’s lands in Iskaka village east of Salfit in the occupied West Bank on 21 June. He was pronounced dead when he was brought to Salfit governmental hospital.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said he suffered grave injuries inflicted by a stab wound to the heart.
According to local sources and documentation collected by rights groups, Harb was on his family’s land with several family members to confront a group of Israeli settlers who had stormed the land. The settlers initially left when confronted by the Harb family, but returned with the Israeli army coming from Ariel settlement close to the Harb family lands. When violence broke out, the settler stabbed Harb in the heart.
Palestinians present at the scene tried reaching the injured Harb but were stopped by the Israeli soldiers, who shot live bullets in the air and threatened anyone trying to get close.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Naeem Harb, one of the witnesses to the attack and Harb’s uncle, said the family intends to keep pushing for accountability despite the closure of the investigation.
“Even if the court decided to close the case, we will go to the Supreme Court, and then we will go to the International Criminal Court (ICC),” said Naeem. “We will keep going until the last sliver of hope, until the last breath, until this killer and this government are punished – we will not leave them alone.”
Several family members, including Harb’s 55-year-old uncle Naeem, have been detained twice by Israeli authorities since Harb was murdered. The detained family members say they were challenged on their witness statements that Israeli soldiers were present at the scene of the murder and did not intervene to stop the settler from stabbing Harb.
Naeem says his family has little faith in the Israeli justice system. “This is an occupation government. They give impunity to the settlers and to the army to kill Palestinians as they wish,” he told Al-Jazeera. “We do not bet on their government, or their justice.”
Unnamed settler arrested and released early on
The settler was arrested 24 hours after the killing of Harb, and detention was initially to be extended in order to allow investigations to continue. He was held in a facility belonging to the Israeli Shin Bet.
Israel’s Channel Kan 11 reported on 5 July that he was released under house arrest.
The Israeli channel quoted sources familiar with the investigation as saying the Israeli authorities did not intend to charge the settler with murder, opting for the lesser charge of “reckless homicide” – a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison.
The channel stated Shin Bet interrogators were convinced that the killing was “not intentional or on a national basis,” which prompted the Israeli prosecution to request his release altogether.
The settler claimed that he “had to stab” Harb to defend his life and the lives of the young settlers who accompanied him during an incursion into the private Palestinian lands in Salfit that belonged to the Harb family.
No accountability for West Bank settlers
Israeli NGO Yesh Din, which monitors settler attacks in the occupied West Bank, released a datasheet in July that documents police investigations opened into offenses perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians between 2005 and 2021.
According to the data only 3% of investigation files opened following ideologically-motivated offenses against Palestinians in the West Bank led to convictions. 92% of cases were closed at the end of an investigation without an indictment filed.
The vast majority of investigations into attacks are closed without any punishment for the settlers.
In incidents in which the victim of the offense was Palestinian, 11 indictments were filed, while in incidents in which the victim was not Palestinian (the vast majority being Israeli security personnel), 70 indictments were filed.
The statistics show that Israeli law enforcement authorities are six times as likely to file an indictment against a settler who harmed a non-Palestinian in the West Bank, as against a settler who harmed a Palestinian.