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Israel's Netanyahu admits police cover-up in 2017 killing of Bedouin teacher

Abu al-Qiyan's family have long protested his innocence [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2020

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The Israeli premier has apologised to the family of Yacoub Abu Al-Qiyan, saying police falsely smeared the teacher as a 'terrorist'.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apologised to the family of a Bedouin teacher slain by police in 2017, admitting authorities accused Yacoub Abu al-Qiyan of terrorism to "protect themselves".

Abu Al-Qiyan, 50, was shot dead when police launched a pre-dawn raid on the Bedouin village of Umm Al-Hiran with the aim of demolishing several homes Israel claims were built without planning permission.

Israeli authorities claimed at the time that the Bedouin teacher drove his car into a police vehicle, with an officer reportedly shooting at Abu Al-Qiyan in an attempt to slow it down. A police officer died when the car veered off course.

Police claimed the teacher was a "terrorist from the Islamic Movement" and suggested he had links to the Islamic State group. 

Three years later, Netanyahu has publicly apologised to Abu Al-Qiyan's family over the killing, alleging that senior law enforcement officials "turned him into a terrorist" as a cover-up for their own actions. 

The Israeli premier denied previous knowledge of the cover-up, claiming police officials spread the terrorist allegations to "protect themselves and hurt me".

Netanyahu's apology on Tuesday came a day after Israel's Channel 12 published documents revealing alleged misconduct by senior law enforcement officials.

The police have until now reitirated their characterisation of the incident as a car-ramming "terrorist" attack, rejecting investigations that claimed Abu al-Qiyan was innocent and police withheld medical treatment that could have saved his life. A justice ministry probe cleared the police of wrongdoing in 2018.

Read more: No prospects for justice a year after killing of Palestinian teacher in Umm al-Hiran

On Tuesday, police offered their condolences to the teacher's family for the first time. 

For relatives, official apologies fall short of expectations.

"All of us know who Yacoub was: a leader, an educator, a beloved dad and brother," the family said in a statement quoted by Haaretz.

"He was killed in cold blood and the family is continuing its legal battle against the state prosecutor, the police who fired the shots, the negligent medic, and the [failure to provide] medical assistance," the statement read.

Palestinian lawmakers in Israel have rejected Netanyahu's apology, claiming the premier was also involved in the cover-up that smeared Abu Al-Qiyan as an extremist.

"The Abu Al-Qiyan family tragedy is no more than a media spin [Netanyahu] uses for his personal benefit. Any real investigation will find him and [former Public Security] Minister Erdan responsible for covering up Yacoub Abu al-Qiyan's murder," said Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List alliance of Palestinian-majority parties in Israel's Knesset.

Netanyahu's apology is "worth nothing", lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman said in a tweet. 

"If Netanyahu truly wants to apologise, he only has one way to do it – resign," she said.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana has called for the case to be re-examined by judicial authorities.

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