What the Israeli army does to soldiers who shoot Palestinians
Gideon Levy, Alex Levac - Nov. 18, 2021 - Haaretz.com
In 18 shooting cases investigated by the Israeli army, no one has been brought to trial
Two years ago, on November 11, 2019, 22-year-old Omar Badawi stepped out of his house in the Al-Arroub refugee camp in the southern West Bank. He wanted to douse a small fire outside, which had been ignited by a Molotov cocktail that teenagers threw at soldiers who invaded the camp, and that had missed its mark. Badawi went out with a towel, to extinguish the flames licking at the wall of his house. That was the mistake of his life. The instant he stepped outside, soldiers deployed in a nearby alley shot and killed him. Maybe they thought the towel posed a mortal threat; after all, they thought it justified lethal gunfire aimed at an innocent civilian. The sequence of events – Badawi’s emergence from the house, the towel, the shooting – was captured on video footage by journalists on the scene. It’s a grim spectacle, but unequivocal in what it shows.
As is the custom, the Israel Defense Forces promised to launch an investigation, at the conclusion of which “the findings will be forwarded to the military advocate general.” That was two years ago. A year ago, on the anniversary of the shooting, Haaretz asked the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit how the investigation into Badawi’s death was coming along. It hasn’t yet concluded, they told me. Another year went by, and this week the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit issued the following information to Haaretz: “One of the fighters who was providing cover for the troops spotted a Palestinian in the alley who was holding a white rag, which the fighter identified as being part of a Molotov cocktail that hadn’t yet been lit, and fired one shot at him. The Palestinian died from his wounds. In the wake of the incident a Military Police investigation was launched, and following an examination of its findings it was found that the evidence that was collected does not justify taking legal action.”
An unarmed young man who is not endangering anyone’s life steps out of his house, a soldier imagines that the towel he’s holding will be used for making a Molotov cocktail and decides to execute the innocent individual forthwith. Nothing in the executioner’s behavior aroused the army’s suspicion that an offense of some kind might have been committed – not manslaughter, not even causing death by negligence. Everything about the soldier’s behavior was, in the eyes of the army, impeccable, standard, perhaps even commendable, and the case was closed. The intolerable ease with which the life of a Palestinian was taken wasn’t worth even a reprimand in the eyes of the moral army.
Let all soldiers see and know, lest they hesitate to shoot Palestinians armed with towels.
According to the IDF’s moral criteria, the shooting death of an elderly, mentally unstable woman named Fehmiye Hrub who approached a checkpoint with hesitant, confused steps, holding a small kitchen knife loosely in one hand, her face attesting to distress, doesn’t even justify opening an investigation. Perhaps the soldiers were hasty in killing her? Maybe it was not necessary not to kill her? Perhaps there are more courageous and less cowardly soldiers who could have overcome this woman, approaching with an unsteady gait? Could it be that shooting doesn’t have to be the first, automatic reaction of soldiers, but the last? Why fuss or bother to open an investigation? “A preliminary examination of the circumstances was conducted, and when no reasonable suspicion arose that a criminal offense had been committed, a Military Police investigation was not launched in the wake of the event,” Haaretz was informed this week by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.
We chose 18 cases from the past two-and-a-half years in which Palestinians were killed or seriously wounded by soldiers – cases this column documented – and asked the unit about the outcome of the preliminary examinations or in-depth investigations that were launched. In five instances, the IDF decided to close the investigations because the evidence that was collected did not, in its eyes, justify taking legal measures. With regard to the remaining 13 cases, the army stated, “The investigations and the handling of the other incidents enumerated is still continuing and no decision has yet been made about them.”
In not one of the 18 cases involving the killing or wounding of Palestinians was it decided to try any of the soldiers on any sort of charge. Nothing was done. Taking human lives, including those of children, or wounding people and leaving them disabled for life, doesn’t always merit even a cursory investigation. So what else is new?
Here are the 18 cases we asked the Spokesperson’s Unit about and the status of their investigations:
1. The killing of Omar Badawi, the young man with the towel, at the entrance to his house in Al-Arroub refugee camp on November 11, 2019. Case closed.
2. The shooting in the head of then-9-year-old Abd el-Rahman Shatawi in Kafr Qaddum on July 12, 2019. He remains in a vegetative state. The boy, who appeared even younger than his age, was standing at the entrance to a friend’s house when a soldier shot him directly in the head from a distance of some 100 meters. The IDF’s response after all the time that’s elapsed was: “… In the wake of a disturbance, the forces used stun grenades and fired rubber [rubber-coated metal] bullets and blank ammunition at those who were disrupting the order. In addition, two bullets were fired into the air, and no injury was identified from them. In the wake of the event, it was reported that a Palestinian minor had been wounded. The findings of the investigation did not make it possible to determine, to the extent required for initiating criminal proceedings, how the Palestinian was hit. In any event, an examination of the shooting during the event showed that [what happened] does not justify taking legal measures.”
3. The shooting in the head of Mohammed Shatawi on January 30, 2020, in Kafr Qaddum. During the weekly demonstration, Shatawi, 14, hid behind a boulder and was shot by an Israeli soldier when he peeked out from his hiding place. He too is in a vegetative state. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
4. The killing of Palestinian policeman Tarek Badwan at the entrance to the Jenin police station on February 6, 2020. Badwan was shot as he chatted with another police officer. The IDF first claimed that there had been shots from the direction of the station, but quickly dropped that mendacious account when a video clip showed Badwan standing and talking innocently to his colleague as he was shot to death. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded, we were told.
5. The killing of Bader Harashi near the separation barrier at a crossing point adjacent to the village of Qaffin on February 7, 2020. Harashi, 20, had gone to the barrier to protest against the Trump Middle East peace plan. He criticized an Arabic-speaking Israeli soldier, apparently a Druze, for being there. The soldier left and then returned a few minutes later in a jeep, opened the door of the vehicle and shot Harashi. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit’s comments, this week: “… During the disturbance the fighters spotted a Palestinian who intended to throw a Molotov cocktail at them and fired one shot at him. The Palestinian died of his wounds. Following the incident, a Military Police investigation was launched, and after an examination of its findings, it was found that the evidence that was collected does not justify taking legal measures.”
6. The killing of Zeid Qaysiyah in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp on May 13, 2020. Qaysiyah was a 17-year-old who dreamed of becoming a singer and who sang in the streets of the refugee camp using a simple amplification device his mother had bought him. He lost his life when the elite, heroic, undercover Duvdevan unit invaded the camp order to arrest a mentally disabled youth who had written something improper in Facebook. The soldiers shot Qaysiyah from a significant distance as he stood on the roof of his house together with his young nieces, watching the events below. The bullet shattered his face. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit: “… In response to disturbances, IDF soldiers responded with fire. Pursuant to that event, it was reported that a Palestinian minor was hit at a distance of some hundreds of meters from the area, and died of his wounds. In the wake of the incident a Military Police investigation was launched. Its findings did not make it possible to determine how the person killed had been hit, and whether he was hit by bullets fired by IDF soldiers or by gunfire at all. As such, it was found that the evidence collected does not justify taking legal measures.”
7. The shooting and arrest of Ahmed Falana, then 17, next to the separation barrier at the village of Safa on February 26, 2021. Seriously wounded, Falana was hospitalized twice and taken into custody, without his parents being informed of his condition. The investigation of the incident hasn’t yet concluded.
8. The killing of Osama Mansour, 35, when soldiers riddled his car with bullets on the road between Al-Jib and Bir Naballah, north of Jerusalem, on April 5, 2021. Mansour was driving with his wife when a soldier ordered them to stop, which they did, before being sent on their way. A minute later, soldiers rained dozens of bullets on the vehicle, killing Mansour, a vegetable peddler, before the eyes of his wife, who was injured. He left five children fatherless. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
9. The shooting in the eye of Izz a-Din al-Batash in the Hebron market on April 9, 2021. The 14-year-old was standing at the entrance to a vegetable shop in the bustling market, and as he was arranging the produce a soldier shot him from a distance away, tearing out his right eye. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
10. The killing of Fehmiye Hrub at the Gush Etzion junction on May 3, 2021. Hrub, 60 at the time of her death, was mentally unstable. Her condition deteriorated during the period of the coronavirus pandemic and she apparently wanted to die. After the soldiers shot her she lay bleeding for 40 minutes at the checkpoint before receiving medical aid. The IDF Spokesperson stated this week: “… The fighters launched the suspect-arrest procedure, and when the terrorist continued to advance toward them they shot in her direction. The terrorist died of her wounds. Considering the circumstances of the matter, a preliminary examination was conducted, and when no reasonable suspicion arose that a criminal offense had been committed, a Military Police investigation was not launched in the wake of the event.”
11. The killing of Hussein Titi in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp on May 12, 2021. Titi, 28, went up to the roof of his house to see what was happening, after being certain that the soldiers who raided the camp and snatched his neighbor had left. He peeked out from the roof and was shot to death. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
12. The killing of Tareq Snobar in the village of Yatma, in the central West Bank, on May 14, 2021. Snobar, 28, was shot two days after the birth of his first child as he was on his way to the hospital to bring his wife and son home. An IDF soldier was seen taking aim and shooting him from a distance of about 100 meters. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
13. The killing of Fadi Washaha at the northern entrance to Ramallah on May 15, 2021. Washaha, a 24-year-old student activist, was shot to death during a demonstration on Nakba Day from a distance of 100 meters. His family is convinced that he was targeted because of his activity. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
14. The killing of Islam Burnat in Bil’in on May 18, 2021. Burnat, 16, who was in the 11th grade, was shot in the head during a demonstration in the village. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
15. The killing of Mohammed Tamimi in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, on July 23, 2021. Army forces were in the village, an IDF jeep passed by, a door suddenly opened and a soldier fired one bullet, wounding Tamimi, 17. After collapsing and then trying to flee for his life, despite being seriously injured, he was shot twice more by soldiers who were walking behind the jeep. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
16. The killing of Shadi Shurafi at the entrance to the village of Beita, in the Nablus area, on July 27, 2021. Shurafi, the village plumber, was shot to death when he went to repair the village’s main water valve, near a highway. The soldiers apparently shot him because he was holding a monkey wrench, mistaken for a weapon. His body was confiscated by the Israeli authorities and to date has not been returned for burial. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
17. The killing of Imad Duikat in Beita on August 7, 2021. The father of four daughters and an infant son, Duikat took part in a demonstration against the takeover of village lands by the settlement of Evyatar. Eyewitnesses related that he was shot to death while drinking a glass of water. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.
18. The killing of Muhammad Khabisa, 28, in Beita on September 26, 2021. Khabisa, the father of an 8-month-old daughter, was the seventh resident of Beita to be killed in the struggle against the illegal outpost of Evyatar. The investigation hasn’t yet concluded.