Erdan: Apology needed if Beduin village incident found not terror attack

His comments came after reports emerged that Justice Ministry investigators have concluded that the incident in Umm al-Hiran was not a terrorist attack.

By ARIEL WHITMAN
February 23, 2017 10:00
2 minute read.

Video and audio of police operation in Umm al-Hiran, Credit: Forensic Architecture

Video and audio of police operation in Umm al-Hiran, Credit: Forensic Architecture

 
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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday that if the investigation into the January incident in the unrecognized Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran revealed that police did not act appropriately, an apology should be issued to the family of the local teacher, Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean, who died along with Border Police officer Erez Levi at the scene.

His comments came after reports on Wednesday emerged that said Justice Ministry investigators have concluded that the incident in Umm al-Hiran was not a terrorist attack, as authorities initially reported it was.

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Erdan wrote in a Facebook post that, "I always stand behind forces who are sent to carry out a mission and at the time I supported the policemen who were sent in our name."

Erdan said there was a "large and fraudulent campaign against me and the police chief," adding that "it won't help them. I understand exactly what they are trying to do and it won't happen. The law is the law and it is the same for everyone."

Erdan ended by saying that he will accept whatever the internal investigation will find, "whether it was a terrorist attack or not."

The Umm al-Hiran affair began before dawn on January 18, when police arrived to carry out court ordered demolitions aimed at forcing residents to move, on the state’s terms, to the nearby town of Hura, so that a new town can be built in the village’s place.

At approximately 5:35 a.m., Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean slowly approached a group of officers in his jeep, and at 5:36 a.m. gunfire was registered, according to the video and image analysis organization Forensic Architecture. Shortly after the shots, the vehicle rapidly accelerated and hit Levi, which is believed to have killed him.



A few hours later, police said it was a deliberate ramming attack, despite multiple eyewitnesses who stated that Abu al-Kaeean’s vehicle accelerated only after shots were fired. The Police Investigations Department opened a probe into the incident the next day. Umm al-Hiran residents voiced disbelief that Abu al-Kaeean, a respected and well-liked teacher, could have carried out an attack.

The police’s claim of terrorism was endorsed by Erdan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, among others.

The police’s version of events immediately came under dispute.

First, video released the same day showed that officers fired before the car accelerated. Police originally said the car first accelerated toward the officers, who then shot at the vehicle. A video released in February appears to show that Abu al-Kaeean was driving with his headlights on, while police and Erdan had claimed he was driving with them off.

Ben Lynfield and Eliyahu Kamisher contributed to this report.

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