Israeli police questioned over killing of Palestinian man

Israeli police questioned over killing of Palestinian man in Jerusalem
3 min read
05 December, 2021
Israel's Justice Ministry took two police officers into questioning following the killing of a Palestinian man after he was shot while he was already down on the floor.
The killing took place in East Jerusalem [Getty]

Israel's Justice Ministry said on Sunday that two police officers were brought in for questioning after they shot and killed a Palestinian man in occupied East Jerusalem's Damascus Gate on Saturday following an alleged attack.

Locals filmed and posted videos on social media videos platforms showing Israeli forces shooting directly the Palestinian man, who was identified as Mohammad Salima, 25, from Salfit, at a point-blank range, while he was lying on the ground injured from a previous gunshot.

A widely circulated video shot by a bystander appeared to show an officer from Israel's paramilitary Border Police shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground, and another appeared to show police with guns drawn preventing medics from reaching him, prompting calls for an investigation into possible excessive use of force.

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The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground.

The Justice Ministry’s police investigations unit said the police officers were questioned shortly after the incident and released without conditions.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement in support of the officers. Other leaders also defended their actions.

“It's not clear if the terrorist maybe has an explosive belt. All sorts of things could happen,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the police, told Israeli Army Radio Sunday. “They acted correctly.”

The incident happened near Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, a tense and crowded area that is often the scene of demonstrations and clashes.

Israel captured the Old City and other parts of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed them in a move not recognised internationally.

Since then, some 475,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank, which is home to more than 2.8 million Palestinians.

There have been dozens of attacks in recent years in and around the Old City, nearly all carried out by individual Palestinians with no known links to armed groups.

Palestinians and Israeli rights groups say security forces sometimes use excessive force in response to attacks, killing suspected attackers who could have been arrested or who posed no immediate threat to security forces.

Rights groups also say Israel rarely holds members of its security forces accountable for the deadly shootings of Palestinians. Investigations often end with no charges or lenient sentences, and in many cases witnesses are not summoned for questioning.

Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses.

In the widely publicised 2016 case, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. Azaria later served two-thirds of a 14-month sentence after being convicted of reckless manslaughter.

His case sharply divided Israelis. The military pushed for his prosecution, saying he violated its code of ethics, while many Israelis, particularly on the nationalist right, defended his actions.

In a more recent case, a Border Police officer was charged with reckless manslaughter in the deadly shooting of an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem’s Old City last year.

The indictment came just over a year after the shooting of Eyad Hallaq, whose family has criticised Israel’s investigation into the killing and called for much tougher charges. The shooting has drawn comparisons to the police killing of George Floyd in the United States.