Eyewitnesses: Police fired on police during Umm Al-Hiran demolition

Two eyewitnesses to the attack said in exclusive interviews with the Post on Sunday that Israeli police fired at a police vehicle during the deadly incident.

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January 23, 2017 06:49
4 minute read.
Umm-al-Hiran

Police in Umm-al-Hiran. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Police officers allegedly fired at a police vehicle during the deadly incident in Um Al-Hiran last week, two eyewitness told The Jerusalem Post, raising speculation that friendly fire was exchanged during the incident.

Meanwhile, a senior police spokesman declined to say whether an officer wounded during the incident was run over by an alleged terrorist or shot by other policemen, raising new questions about the police account that Levi was rammed to death in a terrorist attack.

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Two eyewitnesses to the attack said in exclusive interviews with the Post on Sunday that Israeli police fired at a police vehicle during the deadly incident.

The accounts contradict the police version of the events that led to the deaths of St.-Sgt.-Maj. Erez Levi and driver Yacoub al-Kaeean during a court-ordered demolition operation aimed at clearing Umm Al-Hiran of its Beduin inhabitants so that the Jewish town of Hiran can be built in its place. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have all said it was a ramming attack by Abu al-Kaeean that killed Levi and wounded other policemen.
Clashes in Umm-al-Hiran

But eyewitness Sabri Abu al-Kaeean told the Post: “I heard gunfire and saw a large number of security personnel. I saw a silver jeep with regular license plates driving down; soldiers with rifles began firing at the silver jeep. A lot of fire, and they hit this jeep, the jeep that was hit turned on a blue light so the soldiers knew that it was not a civilian vehicle and they stopped the fire. I saw with my own eyes that they took out two wounded people and treated them.”

"I am certain that police fired on police and hit them," he said, adding that he gave this testimony to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) at the time of the incident and that he would be giving testimony to a police investigation unit. Tayseer Abu al-Kaeean said that during the operation, police “moved us in the direction of Yacoub’s house,” and after a few minutes “I heard shooting from above.”

He said he saw Yacoub’s car moving slowly and police “aiming their weapons in the direction of Yacoub’s car that drove slowly downwards.



"After a few shots I saw the car going down quicker. It got stuck against the mountain. A police car came and struck Yacoub’s car from the front. I saw the door of Yacoub’s car open and his body outside the car, there were shots,” Abu al-Kaeean said.''I think it was a confirmation of killing."

“At a time when there was shooting I saw a jeep that came down from above, a silver-colored police vehicle, and I saw policemen who were on foot aiming their weapons in the direction of the silver jeep of the police and firing at it. I heard shouts of 'stop firing.' I am 100% certain that police fired on police,” Abu al-Kaeean said.

On Sunday, when asked about the condition of the other officers wounded last week, police spokesmen referred to only one policeman.

The policeman suffered light wounds and he is communicating with staff, according to a spokeswoman at Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba.

Yigal Habsor, spokesman for the operations division of the Israel Police, said the wounded policeman could not be interviewed at this stage.

“The policeman is currently in the hospital. He is still wounded. I cannot detail his condition or the type of wound or his name, because people shouldn’t hear from the media if he has been wounded or not. Because of medical secrecy I cannot get into what his name is, where he is hospitalized and what [wound] he has. It’s medical confidentiality,” he said.

However, police foreign press spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “the policeman was wounded by the vehicle.”

An autopsy has found that Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean was wounded in the right knee and chest, and a source at the L. Greenberg Institute for Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir told the Post that he might have survived if he were treated in the field before he bled to death.

An autopsy also found that Levi was killed by the impact of being hit by the car.

Legislators from the Joint List, Meretz and the Zionist Union have called for an independent commission of inquiry into government and police actions in the Umm al-Hiran affair.

Police had suggested that Abu al-Kaeean, a veteran Education Ministry employee widely respected among the Beduin, was linked to Islamic State. Ahmad Abu al-Kaeean, the brother of Yacoub, said the police are “lying, lying, lying.”

Hundreds of officers had entered Umm al-Hiran last Wednesday to demolish homes to clear the area for the establishment of a Jewish town in place of the Beduin village.

The families of Umm al-Hiran were forcibly relocated by the army from the Wadi Zbala area of the Negev to Umm al-Hiran in 1956. But they were never given title to the land. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the land belongs to the state, clearing the way for the demolition of the village.

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