Questions intensify about police account of deaths in Umm al-Hiran

Hundreds of police 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.

January 22, 2017 15:28
3 minute read.
MEDICS EVACUATE MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint List) during a clash between riot police and Arab citizens in

MEDICS EVACUATE MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint List) during a clash between riot police and Arab citizens in Umm al-Hiran. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Fresh questions emerged Sunday about the police operation in the Negev Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran last week, with a senior police spokesman declining to answer whether a policeman wounded during the incident had been run over by an alleged terrorist or shot by other police.

Meanwhile two eyewitnesses to the attack claimed in interviews with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Israeli police fired at a police vehicle during the deadly incident in Umm al-Hiran last week. The accounts contradict the police version of the events which led to the deaths of St.-Sgt.-Maj. Erez Levi and Yacoub al-Kaeean during a police demolition operation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Police Commissioner Insp-Gen. Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have all said that it was a ramming attack by al-Kaeean that killed Levi and wounded other policemen.

But eyewitness Sabri Abu al-Kaeean told The Post: “I heard gunfire and saw a large number of forces. I saw a silver color jeep with regular license plates descending, soldiers with rifles began firing at the silver colored 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.”

Sabri al-Kaeaan said he gave this testimony to the Shin Bet at the time of the incident and that he would be giving testimony to a police investigation unit.

Tayseer abu al-Hayiir said that during the operation, police “moved us in the direction of Yacoub’s house” and after a few minutes “heard shooting from the direction of above.”

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

“I saw the car going down quicker. It got stuck against the mountain.

A police car came and stuck Yacoub’s car from the front. I saw the door of Yacoub’s car open and his body outside the car, there were shots,” al-Hayiir claimed.

“At a time when there were shots 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 color jeep of the police and firing at it....I am 100% certain that police fired on police.”

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

The policeman’s condition is “light” and he is communicating with staff, according to a spokeswoman at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

Yigal Habsor, spokesman for the operations division of the Israel Police, said: “The wounded policeman is not giving interviews at this stage.”

“The policeman is currently in 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.”

However, another police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said “the policeman was wounded from the vehicle.”

An autopsy has found that 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 he may have survived if he were treated in the field before he bled to death.

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

Police had suggested that al-Kaeean, a veteran ministry of education employee widely respected among the Beduin, was linked to ISIS. Ahmad Abu al-Kaeean, the brother of Yacoub, said the police are “lying, lying, lying” Hundreds of police 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 the land belongs to the state, clearing the way for the demolition of the village.

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