Israeli rights group B’Tselem has challenged the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) version of how a young Palestinian man died after he was accused of attempting to carry out a stabbing attack.
Muhammad Abed Al Fatah, 23, was shot by an Israeli settler at the beginning of April after the Israelis claimed he tried to open the door of the settler’s car and attack him at the Huwara Junction near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank.
As the critically wounded man lay injured on the side of the road, another settler in a truck behind joined the first settler in firing more shots at Al Fatah again, who subsequently died in hospital.
A Palestinian officer, who liaises with the Israeli authorities, told the African News Agency (ANA) that the IDF’s version of events was being challenged by the Palestinian Authority (PA) because the Israelis had failed to provide video footage supporting their version of events, which they normally do.
The Huwara junction, which has video cameras installed at regular intervals, has seen a number of attacks carried out by Palestinian assailants on Israeli settlers, who gather there for transport to other parts of Israel and the occupied West Bank.
In a number of cases, the IDF has automatically and immediately supplied video evidence. In others this has not been forthcoming, with critics accusing the Israelis of using excessive force to shoot dead alleged Palestinian attackers when they could have been arrested instead.
According to B’Tselem’s recent report, Al Fatah had been throwing stones at Israeli cars driving along the road in the vicinity. After the father of a young daughter was shot and critically injured, eight Israeli soldiers went into two nearby shops to check their security cameras, B’tselem reported.
They dismantled a DVR in one of the shops and left. About 20 minutes later, the soldiers returned to the shop, reinstalled the DVR and watched the footage
“Two soldiers filmed the screen with their mobile phones. They then erased the footage from the DVR and left.”
B’Tselem said its investigation found that, contrary to media reports, the shooting of Abd al-Fatah was unjustified, as the latter had already moved away from the car and was kneeling behind some dumpsters.
“Moreover, there was clearly no justification whatsoever for the additional shots that Sherman and the truck driver fired at Abd Al-Fatah when he was already lying injured on the ground.”
The Israeli security forces that arrived on the scene ignored these facts, stated B’Tselem, adding that they did nothing to arrest the two settlers.
Instead, the security forces promptly drove the Palestinians away from the scene, and then addressed the urgent task of eliminating any footage of the incident, to ensure that the truth never comes to light and the shooters would not face any charges or be held accountable in any way.
“The identity of both shooters is known. If the authorities so choose, they could easily track them down, at least for questioning. Yet given the troops’ conduct immediately after the incident, and Israel’s longstanding policy, the chances of this are slim to none,” added the rights group.
Human rights organisations have long asserted that Israel has a deliberate policy to kill Palestinian stone-throwers even when lives are not endangered.
Israel says stone throwing is, in fact, attempted murder.
Several Israelis and Palestinians have been killed by stones they have thrown at each other. However, the vast majority of cases seldom result in death or even injury.
– African News Agency