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Getting away with murder

How Israel covered up the deaths of Razan Najjar, Ahmed Erekat, Eyad Hallaq and Abdul Fattah al-Sharif

Ahmed Erekat, who was killed by Israeli forces while running chores for his sister’s wedding. (Source: Facebook profile)

Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – Last Tuesday Forensics Architecture, a London based forensic science lab published a report damning the Israeli military for the killing of Palestinian Ahmed Erekat. Erekat was accused of ramming his car into a military checkpoint’s booth, however further investigation revealed that is most likely not the case. In addition to that, it also showed that Erekat did not pose as a threat to the soldiers who had shot him six times and claimed that he was a terrorist who attempted an attack.

A mural on the separation barrier memorializing Eyad Hallaq, a 32 year old autistic man shot by Israeli police. (Photo-Credit: Local Focus)

This story is not exclusive to Erekat, similar situations have happened in the past. Eyad Hallaq, a Palestinian man suffering from Autism was also killed last year in Jerusalem, only this time by the Israeli police. When the family demanded a full investigation, the police reported that the cameras at the scene of Hallaq’s death were malfunctioned. When Palestinian paramedic Razan Najjar was shot by an Israeli sniper, Avichay Adraee, the Arabic spokesperson for the Israeli military tweeted that “Razan al-Najjar is not the angel of mercy Hamas propaganda is making her out to be.” Ofir Gendleman,an Israeli diplomat and current Arabic spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also tweeted Adraee’s story.

Razan Al-Najjar, a Palestinian paramedic killed by an Israeli sniper on June 1st, 2018. (Source: Facebook profile)

Later on, an independent investigation found that it was an Israeli bullet that killed Najjar, and that she did not pose any possible threat against the soldiers nor was she used as a human shield.

Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian Human-Rights organization based in Ramallah, had worked closely with Forensics Architcture in its investigation. In a conversation with Jerusalem24, Sha’awan Jabarin, general manager of Al-Haq spoke about the investigation as well as Israel’s actions towards crimes committed by their forces against Palestinians.

Forensic Architecture’s investigation found that the Israeli statements surrounding the death of Ahmed Erekat are false. The incident which occurred last June was described by Israeli authorities as a “vehicle attack,” saying that its forces had to “quickly neutralize the threat from the terrorist.” However, upon further investigation by the London based group other results surfaced. Using available videos, Forensic Architecture reconstructed the scene which cast “significant doubt” on the Israeli claims, and suggested that Erekat may have been involved in an accident.

A collision expert cited in the report, Jeremy J Bauer, found the car was not accelerating significantly and hit the soldier at a low speed. “Our analysis also comes across evidence that raises the possibility that Erekat braked before impact with the checkpoint,” the report said. According to Erekat’s family, he was running chores for his sister’s wedding, which was due to take place later that day. The Israeli authorities claimed Erekat “approached officers” after the crash. Forensic Architecture said video proved he had “raised his hands in the air, moved away from the soldiers, and did not pose any immediate threat”.

“The policy of impunity is an official policy, the policy of not prosecuting officers and soldiers responsible for the crimes they committed is crystal clear,” says Jabarin. He also added that, “even the Israeli institutions that were dealing with the Israeli investigation apparatus with the Israeli military prosecutor, said that ninety-eight percent of the files in which the killing and the process of crime and abuse were closed by the military prosecution.” Israeli soldiers have been caught multiple times committing crimes against Palestinians, but actual prosecutions for these crimes rarely happen. “the greatest evidence for that is the Sharif case in Hebron, since it was in front of the cameras’ lenses” said Jabarin. He continues to state that “even the Israeli forensic report itself, which said that he died as a result of being shot in the head the second time, from point blank range led to his death.”

Jabarin was referring to the case of Palestinian Abdul Fattah Al-Sharif, who was killed at an Israeli checkpoint at the Tal Rumeida neighborhood in Hebron. Israeli forces claimed that Sharif was armed and neutralized during an attack. However, video evidence from the scene exposed Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier, shot the injured Sharif in the head. Azaria would later be sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and was released after nine. 

The video captured of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif’s death at the hands of Elor Azaria in Hebron. The al-Sharif’s death was on March 24th, 2018. Video courtesy of B’tselem.

Jabarin alleges that “the occupation army feels that it is immune from prosecution and thus it enjoys a policy of impunity when anyone escapes from punishment who repeats his crime over and over and this is what happens in reality.” He described the situation as a policy for soldiers to get away with murder, in contrast to Palestinians who receive hefty sentences, “a Palestinian child who can throw a stone can take a period of two or three years and more as a punishment for throwing a harmless stone. An Israeli kills a Palestinian and he spends months in prison, if he is tried at all.” In the case of Erekat, no Israeli military or security personnel have been investigated for the killing as of writing this story. However, Jabarin states that there probably will not be any reprecussions to anyone, “the purpose of killing is part of a widespread, systematic and continuous practice, and this is not an accidental or exceptional event.”

In a report conducted by B’Tselem, an Israeli watchdog organization, Israeli forces killed 27 Palestinians in 2020. 23 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, one in the Gaza Strip and three on the other side of the green line. Seven of those murdered were children. At least 11 of the 16 killings investigated by B’Tselem in the West Bank “posed no threat to the lives of the forces” or any other person at the time they were shot.

Israeli soldiers check the IDs of Palestinians at a West Bank checkpoint near Nablus. (Photo-Credit: Rina Castelnuovo, The New York Times)

Commenting on the lack of accountability within the Israeli military and security forces, Jabarin said that “there is no independent, impartial and professional Israeli investigation system.” Jabarin then said that the only way for the Palestinians to hold Israelis accountable is to take cases like Erekat’s, Hallaq’s and others is to go to the International Criminal Court. He adds that “the whole world today is unanimous on an official point, Israel has an official policy of impunity and therefore we demand justice for the victims outside the framework of the Israeli judicial system and the Israeli mechanisms.”

 

 

Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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