Saturday shooting of Palestinian terrorist not comparable to Elor Azaria - analysis

Video filmed by a Palestinian couple who were in their car at the time of the attack showed two Border Police officers, including a woman, firing two shots as Salameh lay moving on the ground.

Israeli police officers stand guard outside the Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem, December 4, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Israeli police officers stand guard outside the Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem, December 4, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

The shooting of a 23-year-old Palestinian outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on Saturday evening cannot be compared to Elor Azaria. It was no execution.

While the videos released after the shooting of the assailant, Mohammed Shawkat Salameh, initially made many – including this reporter – think of the comparison to Azaria.

This was no Elor Azaria.

Video filmed by a Palestinian couple in their car at the time of the attack showed a male and female Border Police officer firing two shots as Salameh lay moving on the ground.

But watching the full video of the attack later released by the Israel Police clearly shows that the officers did their job: they stopped Salameh from continuing to attack other people.

Elor Azaria wearing a shirt with the Star of David as he enters prison in August, 2017 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)Elor Azaria wearing a shirt with the Star of David as he enters prison in August, 2017 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

In the video released by police, Salameh is seen crossing a street and then turning around and repeatedly stabbing 21-year-old haredi Avraham Elimelich, who was walking behind him. Salameh, from Salfit in the central West Bank, then lunged toward the officers responding to the attack, before being shot.

The whole incident lasted less than 30 seconds.

The assailant “tried to attack me with the knife, and also tried stabbing the policewoman who was with me,” the officer who shot Salameh was quoted by Haaretz as saying. “I moved away and fired as we were trained. I fired three to four times to neutralize the terrorist.”

This was no Elor Azaria.

In 2016, Azaria arrived a the scene of a stabbing attack in Hebron more than 10 minutes after the attacker, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was disarmed. Sharif was lying on the ground wounded and unarmed when Azaria – a medic – shot and killed him.

Azaria was convicted of reckless manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison. His time was later commuted for good behavior.

The officers involved in Saturday’s attack have been questioned by the Israel Police’s Internal Investigation Department, and were later released without conditions.

Their questioning is a routine procedure. “In any shooting by a police officer within the boundaries of the Green Line where there is a casualty, regardless of the type of incident, the Police Internal Investigations Department is obligated to open an investigation,” Interior Minister Omer Bar Lev posted on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

Bar Lev and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett along with other politicians backed the two officers, with Bennett saying they acted “quickly and with determination, as expected of Israeli police confronting a terrorist who tried to kill an Israeli civilian.”

Damascus Gate is an epicenter for many protests and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, and is a known flashpoint for attacks. The one on Saturday comes two weeks after an unarmed tour guide, Eli Kay, was shot dead by a Hamas gunman in the Old City.

That was the first deadly attack in the Old City since 2018, and Israel’s defense establishment had been concerned of copycat attacks.

The officers involved in stopping Salameh from continuing with his attack cannot be compared to Elor Azaria.

Sharif was not a threat to anyone when Azaria shot and killed him in cold blood. Salameh, on the other hand, was a clear threat and was stopped by the officers.

The shooting of Salameh was not an extrajudicial killing; and the officers involved are not Elor Azaria.