Soldier shoots and kills Muhammad Jawabreh at home, from afar, although he posed no risk

Published: 
22 Dec 2014

Muhammad Jawabreh. Photo courtesy of the family.On Tuesday, 11 November 2014, at around 11:30 A.M., soldiers fired a single shot at the chest of 19-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Jawabreh as he stood by the window in his home in al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, the West Bank. Jawabreh was fatally wounded by the shooting and rushed to al-Mezan Hospital in Hebron, where he was pronounced dead.

B'Tselem’s investigation found that Jawabreh had taken part that morning in clashes between camp residents and Israeli security forces near the intersection at the entrance to the camp, on Route No. 60. At around 9:00 A.M., he was struck in the leg by a rubber-coated metal bullet, after which he left the scene and went home with a friend. After arriving at Jawabreh’s home, some 250 meters northwest of the intersection, the two went up to the second floor, which is under construction, drank tea and watched the clashes from the window. Soldiers standing on the roof of a house some 55 meters away, as the crow flies, shouted at them to move away from the window. One of the soldiers then fired a teargas canister at them, which did not penetrate the window. The two then went down to the ground floor of the building.

The window through which the three looked out, and the rooftop where the soldiers stood. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 12 Nov. 2014
The window through which the three looked out, and the rooftop where the soldiers stood. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 12 Nov. 2014

Some two hours later, Jawabreh’s cousin ‘Issam Jawabreh came over and the three young men went up to the second floor to watch the clashes. Approximately fifteen minutes later, while Muhammad Jawabreh was standing by the window holding a teapot, he was shot without prior warning.

‘Issam Jawabreh, a physician, gave his cousin first aid, called for an ambulance, and began driving him to hospital. He met the ambulance on the way and Jawabreh was transferred to the ambulance, which reached al-Mezan Hospital in Hebron at approximately 12:00 noon. Some fifteen minutes later, Muhammad Jawabreh was pronounced dead. After he was taken to hospital, soldiers came to the home and searched it. They told the family that they were searching for a gun they had seen in Jawabreh’s hand. They searched the second floor and the yard, and left after about half an hour without finding anything.

‘Issam Jawabreh spoke to B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, describing how his cousin was shot:

‘Issam Jawabreh. Photograph: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 12 November 2014.On 11 November 2014, at about 11:30 in the morning, I came over to my cousin’s house for a visit. At that time there were clashes going on between young guys and the security forces. My cousin Muhammad invited me to have tea with him on the second floor, which is still under construction. There was another guy with us. We watched the clashes through the window and I saw soldiers on the roof of Hisham a-Sharif’s home. I asked Muhammad for a cigarette and he took out a pack of cigarettes and gave me one. He also poured a cup of tea from a metal teapot and handed it to me. Muhammad was standing in the corner of the room and I was standing next to him. Suddenly I heard a single live gunshot and Muhammad shouted out. Then he fell face down on the floor. I quickly lifted him up together with the other guy. He wasn’t moving.

Muhammad’s mother, Ibtisam Jawabrah, told Abu Hashhash:

Ibtisam Jawabrah. Photograph courtesy of the witness.After Muhammad’s friends took him to hospital, 10-15 soldiers came running over to the house. One of them asked me who was the man injured by the shooting. He also asked me about a gun the man had been holding. I told them that Muhammad had not been holding gun. A few soldiers burst through to the second floor. They spent a few minutes there and came back downstairs. Then the soldiers searched around the house. After about half an hour, they left just as they had come. Since then, the soldiers haven’t come back to the house and no-one has asked us about a gun.

The army’s response, published as part of an article in Ha’aretz, stated: “During clashes that broke out in al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, north of Hebron, a Palestinian man aimed an ‘improvised weapon’ at the force. The soldiers reported that they felt endangered and therefore decided to open fire at him.” However, B'Tselem’s investigation found that Jawabreh was not armed. This finding is consistent with the fact that the soldiers did not find anything in their search of the home, and that none of the persons present in the home at the time of the shooting were questioned. Moreover, and contrary to the army’s response, the shooting was not connected to the clashes at the entrance to the camp but was aimed at a home that lies dozens of meters away from there.

The army’s response implies that the slightest subjective sense of danger is enough to warrant lethal shooting. This contradicts basic principles of use of force enshrined in penal law, according to which lethal shooting must meet objective standards of reasonableness. Even if the soldiers did feel in danger, their location and distance from Jawabreh undoubtedly enabled use of other means to neutralize the threat.

The MAG Corps has informed B'Tselem that the Military Police Investigations Unit (MPIU) has opened an investigation into the incident. To the best of B'Tselem’s knowledge, however, the Palestinian eyewitnesses have not been questioned to date.

Since the beginning of 2014, Israeli security forces have killed 44 Palestinians in the West Bank. Of these, 43 were killed with live fire, although very few of the cases justified use of lethal means. The fact that soldiers do not see live fire as a last resort to be used only when lives are at immediate risk shows that the open-fire regulations are leniently worded or are leniently interpreted by commanders. The security forces in general, and specifically high-ranking commanders, are very rarely held accountable for killing Palestinians. Policy makers in the government, army and the MAG Corps are responsible for allowing this disregard for Palestinian lives to continue.