Image from video of Kafr Kana incident.
(photo credit: screenshot)
The Justice Ministry has decided to close the wrongful- death investigation against a police officer who shot and killed an Arab man in the village of Kafr Kana in November, saying the officer was not to blame for the death of 22-year-old Kheir a-Din Hamdan.
Hamdan’s killing led to widespread riots in the Arab sector at the time, as well as a general strike by Arab citizens the day after, following the release of surveillance camera footage that contradicted the police’s version of events.
According to the Justice Ministry’s statement on Tuesday, the team of officers that was in the village that night was from the YASAM unit and had come to the village to arrest a man suspected of throwing a grenade.
During the arrest, a different man, most likely Hamdan, began to fight with the police and refused their demands that he leave the area. He then approached them with the intent to attack, according to the Justice Ministry investigation, and the police pushed him and used pepper spray against him.
The van then made its way to carry out another arrest of a suspect, but got lost and ended up back at the scene of the clash with Hamdan. At this point, Hamdan charged the van barefoot, holding a large kitchen knife and screaming “Allahu akbar!” He then banged on a window of the van with the knife’s handle a few times and tried to open the door. One of the officers opened a door on the van and fired into the air to deter Hamdan, who only began to attack the van with more intensity.
At that point, one of the officers stepped out of the van with his gun aimed at Hamdan, who had his back to the officer and who took a couple of steps while still holding the knife. He did not answer their calls to halt and drop the knife. The driver of the van then got out and pointed his gun at Hamdan, worried that the officer who had exited the van was in danger, according to the Justice Ministry.
“He assumed that his partner outside the vehicle was in danger of being harmed by the deceased, who was armed with a knife – an assumption based on the fact that the deceased was behaving in a maniacal manner,” the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday.
It said that since Hamdan could not be deterred and still posed a danger to the officer who was near him, the driver fired one round, which later proved to be fatal.
The driver was only partially outside of the vehicle when he fired the round, which hit Hamdan in the lower portion of his left hip.
The Justice Ministry added that it wanted to emphasize that the entire incident had lasted 13 seconds, and that “in these circumstances, which deal with very quick decision-making, in an incident involving a threat to officers, even a mistaken decision does not constitute a basis for suspecting a criminal offense without proof [of such an offense].”
It added that its investigation had found no wrongdoing in the evacuation of the wounded Hamdan, whom police picked up and dragged into the van before they drove him to an area hospital.
Speaking from the Knesset floor on Tuesday, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said that the Justice Ministry’s decision “is a knife in the back of Hamdan’s father. It’s spitting in the face of the matter of equality under the law.”
He added that the Justice Ministry’s unit for investigating police worked to clear police of charges, and that Tuesday’s announcement showed that “the blood of an Arab is cheaper [in Israel].”