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From the field

Israeli soldier shoots and kills 19-year-old Palestinian who posed no danger, Kafr ‘Aqab

Ahmad Kharubi. Photo courtesy of the family
Ahmad Kharubi. Photo courtesy of the family

On 22 December 2016, at about 2:45 A.M., an Israeli soldier shot and killed Ahmad Nasha’t ‘Othman Kharubi, 19, a resident of al-Birah. Kharubi was killed in Kafr ‘Aqab after security forces, accompanied by Civil Administration representatives, entered the village around midnight. The forces came to the village to seal the home of Masbah Abu Sbeih, who two months earlier (on 9 October 2016) shot and killed an Israeli civilian, Levana Malihi, 60, and Special Patrol Unit officer Yosef Kirma, 29, in an attack in East Jerusalem. Abu Sbeih’s home is located in a part of Kafr ‘Aqab defined as Area C, but Kharubi was killed in a part of the village located inside the municipal borders of Jerusalem. The military stated that during the night “the forces came under fire and incendiary devices were thrown; our forces did not sustain any injuries. The IDF force responded with gunfire toward a person throwing an incendiary device, who was killed.”

Between 2:00 A.M. and 2:30 A.M., seven to 10 youths, including Kharubi, came from nearby communities in two cars to protest the sealing of the home. About 100 meters to the north of Abu Sbeih’s home, some 10 soldiers and Border Police officers blocked the road with two jeeps. They set the laser sights on their weapons on the two cars, signaling them to turn back. The youths turned the cars around and parked in the village square, some 240 meters north of the roadblock. They then returned on foot to the area of the roadblock. Several dozen people were standing along the way watching the events. A few of those present threw stones at the forces deployed on the adjacent streets and on the roofs of some of the homes. To the south of the roadblock, sounds of clashes, live gunfire, and stun grenades could be heard./p>

At about 2:30 A.M., the youths hid behind the corners of buildings and a pile of tires placed by the road, close to a tire repair shop, some 80 to 100 meters from the jeeps and the security force personnel blocking the road. Military snipers took up position on the roofs of the homes adjacent to the roadblock. Kharubi hid behind a low wall, some 60-80 centimeters high, and apparently attempted to throw stones at the Border Police officers and soldiers at the roadblock, who were about 80 to 100 meters away from him. About 15 minutes later, at around 2:45 A.M., two shots were fired toward the youths.

In testimony taken on 24 December 2016 by B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, D.D., 25, a resident of Um a-Sharayet, described Kharubi’s shooting:

Z.T., F.D., Ahmad, and I hid behind tires and the corners of buildings so that we could see what was going on from where we were. There were hardly any clashes on our side of the roadblock, but from the south, on the other side of the jeeps we heard the sounds of stun grenades and live gunfire, but we couldn’t see the clashes. We saw snipers on the roofs of tall buildings.

Fifteen minutes after we arrived, a sniper fired a live bullet that hit Ahmad, but no-one could see him or work out where the sniper was – on a roof or on the ground. The guys who were closest to Ahmad called out for an ambulance. One of the guys approached Ahmad and another shot was fired toward him, but it didn’t hit anyone. The guys who were close to Ahmad lifted him up and moved him to the sidewalk.

In testimony taken on 24 December 2016 by B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Z.T., 19, a resident of al-‘Amari Refugee Camp, described the shooting:

I was standing with S.T. about 10 meters behind Ahmad and F.D. The road was lit, but the police officers were standing in a dark area. I heard the sound of live fire that hit Ahmad. F.D. moved forward to take Ahmad, who had fallen down immediately after the shooting. A live bullet was fired at him but it didn’t hit anyone. F.D. began to shout “call for an ambulance, call for an ambulance.” Me and another guy went to Ahmad, who was behind a low wall. We lifted him up and dragged him a few meters, bending down low because we were afraid of the snipers. He felt heavy.

Scene of the incident. Red circle marks the low wall Kharubi hid behind. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 24 Dec. 2016
Scene of the incident. Red circle marks the low wall Kharubi hid behind. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 24 Dec. 2016

J.F., 29, a paramedic and ambulance driver with the Red Crescent in al-Birah, was stationed with an ambulance in the square in Kafr ‘Aqab on the night in question, ready to evacuate injured persons. In testimony taken on 25 December 2016 by B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, J.F. described the events:

I didn’t see any clashes while we were waiting, at least not in the area between me and the military force blocking the road. Things were calm. At 2:45 A.M., I heard two live gunshots, two or three seconds apart, from the direction of the forces blocking the road. I moved forward with my ambulance a few meters to see the results of the shooting. I saw a few young men between me and the soldiers shouting “ambulance, ambulance.”

I drove up to them and saw three or four guys holding someone who had been injured. I immediately turned the ambulance around so that the rear end was facing them, and they put the injured man on a stretcher in the ambulance. The paramedic who was with me stayed by his side to provide first aid. He began to perform resuscitation and artificial ventilation. While we were driving to hospital in Ramallah, he told me that the patient’s heart had stopped beating – there was no pulse and he wasn’t breathing. I’d realized from the start that this was a serious case, and I was driving as fast as I could. I arrived at the hospital in three minutes, and they were already prepared to admit the patient after receiving notification from the call center.

Kharubi was dead on arrival at hospital. The physicians unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate him before pronouncing him dead. The bullet struck the lower part of his neck, to the left, and exited from the rear through the upper right side of his back. At 10:00 A.M., a partial autopsy was performed to remove some of the shrapnel from his body. The security forces left Kafr ‘Aqab at about 5:00 A.M. after completing the sealing of Abu Sbeih’s home.

B'Tselem’s investigation shows that no incendiary device was thrown at the security forces from the area where Kharubi and the other youths were positioned. As the youths were 80 to 100 meters away from the forces, they could not pose any danger. At the time Kharubi was shot in the neck and killed, and at the time the snipers fired toward the other youths attempting to remove Kharubi, the youths were not posing a threat to anyone. Firing at the torso of a person hiding behind a wall, even if he were throwing stones at the security forces, is unjustified and illegal.

In addition, the forces entered Kafr ‘Aqab in a manner that led to the pointless death of this young man in order to execute the punitive sealing of a home belonging to the family of a person who carried out an attack. Such measures are illegal, immoral, and constitute collective punishment, and accordingly the entire operation was fundamentally improper.

Over the years, referring cases to the military law enforcement system with a view to promoting real accountability has proved ineffective. In many cases, no investigation military investigation was launched, and even when it was, it nearly always wound up as a whitewash. Therefore, B’Tselem has decided to stop sending cases to the MAG Corps with a demand to investigate. Nonetheless, B’Tselem carries on working in other ways to promote accountability. To that end we continue to investigate and publicize these types of incidents. That said, the obligation to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for such incidents remains on the shoulders of the military system, but as long as the MAG Corps persists in it systemic whitewashing, nothing will deter security force personnel from continuing to shoot and kill Palestinians who do not present a danger.