PALESTINIANS WAIT at an IDF checkpoint in the West Bank late last year..
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Three weeks after two Palestinians were killed by IDF fire following a suspected vehicular ramming attack, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem is claiming that interval of time between the crash and the gunshots must be examined.
The incident occurred in early March, when troops had been conducted arrest raids in the West Bank village of Nima near Ramallah and their vehicle broke down as they exited the area. The troops had been standing outside their vehicle trying to move it when they were struck by the Palestinian car, seriously injuring an IDF officer and lightly injuring a Border Police officer.
According to the IDF, the force then opened fire on the vehicle’s three occupants, killing two and wounding the third, who was arrested.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the two killed as 21-year-old Amir Mahmoud Jumaa Darraj from the village of Kharbatha al-Misbah, and 19-year-old Youssef Raed Mahmoud Anqawi from Beit Sira. The injured Palestinian was identified as Haitham Bassem Jumaa Alqam, 20, from the village of Safa.
According B’Tselem, the entire event was caught on camera and streamed live on Facebook, where the Palestinian car is seen driving down the road before the sound of it crashing into another vehicle is heard.
A single gunshot is then clearly heard some 10 seconds later. Another six gunshots are heard about four and half minutes later, and then several seconds later another two shots are heard. Another minute and a half later, another single gunshot is heard.
“In total, 10 shots are heard in the footage, all – apart from the first – were fired quite some time after the collision,” B’Tselem wrote.
Following the incident, the IDF released a statement saying that the three Palestinians in the car had thrown Molotov cocktails at a crossing near Route 443 earlier that night and several additional Molotov cocktails were found in the car.
The IDF also confiscated the CCTV footage, which captured the incident, and conducted searches of the family homes of Daraj and Anqawi. Their bodies are still being held by the military.
According to testimony given to B’Tselem by a witness, the entire incident lasted five minutes and was witnessed by dozens of people in the village.
“I was scared and decided to get out of there, because it was dangerous,” the witness told B’Tselem. “The guy in the car next to me also decided to leave. We drove up to the top of the hill, about 200 meters from the area of the crash. We stopped there and got out of our cars to watch what was going on from a safe distance. People were also watching from their windows or porches, I guess once they’d realized something was going on. Some of them came over and stood by us. We stayed there for about five minutes. While we were there, all we saw were flashlights moving and soldiers yelling and screaming in Hebrew.”
The witness, M.R., also spoke to Haaretz, explaining that the military vehicle which broke down was in the middle of the road without any warning triangle, blocking the narrow road for any vehicles traveling through.
At around 3:30 a.m., M.R. saw another vehicle driving fast down the hill and despite his attempts to get the car to stop, he then heard the sound of the car crashing into the military vehicle, followed immediately by a single gunshot and then a barrage of gunshots several minutes later.
“Taken together, the testimonies, video footage and forensic analysis paint a picture that the IDF Spokesperson’s statement does not contradict: the two Palestinians killed in the car were shot by the security forces several minutes after the crash,” B’Tselem said, adding that the interval of time between the crash and gunshots “raises questions” that have been ignored by the IDF.
“Clear restrictions apply to Israeli security forces’ use of force and firepower: shooting to kill is permitted only in instances of clear and present danger to their lives or to the lives of others,” B’Tselem added. “The facts described above give rise to serious concerns that, contrary to the IDF Spokesperson’s statement, the circumstances of this incident did not meet this criterion.”
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