People who knew the wellliked math teacher Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean, who died in disputed circumstances during Wednesday’s police demolition operation in Umm al-Hiran, say he was framed by police.
They allege that he was shot dead by police in his car and then branded a terrorist who carried out a ramming attack.
“Instead of thoroughly investigating, the leaders of the state and the police preferred to accuse him and blame an entire public,” said a young man among dozens of people seated on plastic chairs in a large mourning tent in the Beduin township of Hura, near Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized Beduin village in the Negev.
“This was murder in cold blood and it also too bad for the policeman, who died for nothing,” Sr.-St.-Sgt.-Maj. Erez Levi, 34, was killed during the incident, which occurred after police entered the village in large numbers to demolish houses there to pave the way for establishment of a Jewish town on the site.Police said that Abu al-Kaeean had accelerated his car in order to carry out a ramming attack and was shot and killed.
But aerial footage from a police helicopter of the alleged attack appears to show police firing at the jeep vehicle before it accelerates rapidly.
Police said they were checking whether Abu al-Kaeean, a veteran Education Ministry employee, had ties to ISIS. But Fuad Abu al-Kaeean, principal of the Salaam School in Hura where Yacoub worked, told The Jerusalem Post by telephone on Thursday evening that he was a “man of peace.”
“He was an outstanding teacher, erudite, understanding, with good capabilities, a good person, he loved everyone, a happy person who loved life, a man of peace, not a man of violence. He is not how they are describing him. He loved everyone and did everything for his students. He devoted himself [to others].”
Clashes in Umm-al-Hiran
Fuad said that Yacoub had been a teacher for 17 years and taught science in addition to mathematics.
“It is painful,” he said. “It’s a person you meet with six days a week for six hours a day. A person you live with.”
In the mourners’ tent, a middle- aged man, who like others asked for anonymity out of fear of police reprisal, said of the police allegations, ‘These are lies. It is painful and infuriating.
Everyone knows him as a good and honest person. He’s not just anyone. He taught math to all my children and to practically all the children here. My kids couldn’t sleep last night, they were crying for him.’ “We want an investigative commission, including an autopsy of the bodies,” he said.
“All the village has been wounded.”
A nephew of Abu al-Kaeean said: “We want an apology from those who said he belonged to Islamic State and that he ran over the policeman. What happened was that he lost control after he was shot. We want an independent commission of inquiry so that the truth will come out.”
Yacoub’s brother Hammad, a school principal, said the body was at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv. “I don’t want to see his body with [bullets] in it,” he said.
“Two days ago, he was sitting in my living room and now he is a body,” Hammad said.
Hammad said that Yacoub took his computer and personal objects with him to the car before the deadly ride. He drove away from his house because “he did not want to be in the area during the demolitions. He did not want to stay there.”
Hammad thinks his brother was on his way to Hura.
“My question is why did they shoot him? I do not know.”
Mourners drank coffee in tiny cups and ate dates, a traditional mourning food. Yacoub’s hundred-year-old father, Musa, balanced himself by leaning on a walker.
Most stores in Hura were shuttered on Thursday and schools were closed in mourning for Abu al-Kaeean. His house was demolished after his death, one of 10 homes destroyed in Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday as a follow- up to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that the houses of the village were on state land. The demolitions are part of a bid to force the Beduin to relocate from Umm al-Hiran to Hura on the state’s conditions.
It is the second time the Beduin are being displaced. In 1956, the same families were forced off their land in the Wadi Zbala area of the Negev and relocated by the army to what became Umm al-Hiran.
But the Beduin were never given title to the land and the village remained unrecognized and without hookup to water and electricity, its only access road hazardous from potholes.
According to the state plan, Umm al-Hiran is to be replaced by the Jewish town of Hiran.