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Sumayah Mansur and two of her daughters. Photo by Alex Levac, 3 Apr. 2021
From the field

Not an attack or a car-ramming: Soldiers at checkpoint shoot and injure Palestinian parents of five, killing father

אוסאמה מנסור. התמונה באדיבות המשפחה
Osama Mansur. Photo courtesy of family

On Monday night, 5 April 2021, soldiers entered the towns of Bir Nabala and al-Jib north of Jerusalem, searched homes and fired tear gas canisters at Palestinian children and teens, who threw stones at them. After midnight, at around 2:30 A.M. on 6 April, about four military vehicles drove along the road that runs between the two towns. They stopped by a traffic island in the middle of the road or in nearby alleys, and the soldiers got out and stood by them.

Shortly afterwards, Osama (45) and Sumayah (35) Mansur, parents of five from the village of Bidu, drove along the road on their way home from a medical clinic in Bir Nabala. One of the soldiers motioned them with a flashlight, and Osama Mansur stopped the car.

After a brief argument with the soldiers, Mansur resumed driving. At that point, the soldiers opened fire at the car, injuring Mansur in the head. Sumayah, who was wounded by shrapnel, grabbed the wheel, pressed down on the gas and continued driving for 700 meters until she stopped by the roadside. Residents arrived and took the couple to a clinic in Bidu. From there, they were transferred to hospital in Ramallah, where Mansur underwent surgery. He was pronounced dead about an hour later. Soldiers confiscated Mansur’s car and a few hours later, also confiscated the recording devices of security cameras overlooking the scene of the incident, belonging to two businesses nearby.

B’Tselem’s investigation indicates that there were no soldiers in the car’s lane when Mansur resumed driving, and that the soldiers opened fire as soon as he the car began moving again. The incident took place several meters from the flying checkpoint, and about 20 meters from other soldiers who were standing by the traffic island further down the road. Afterwards, the soldiers opened a volley of fire at the car, both from the flying checkpoint and from the traffic island.

Scene of the incident. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 6 April 2021

The military was quick to determine that the incident had been a car-ramming attack and that the soldiers who shot the Mansurs did so after the vehicle “accelerated towards another of a group of fighters operating in the area, in a way that endangered the fighters’ lives.” However, media reports indicate that even at the time, the military doubted it had been a car-ramming attack.

The military announced the immediate launch of an MPIU investigation. Yet based on years of experience, this is unlikely to result in anything other than whitewashing, which is the purpose of these investigations – to provide a fig leaf by creating a show of a functioning law enforcement system and to silence criticism.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 7 April 2021, Sumayah Mansur recounted what happened when she and her husband drove up to the flying checkpoint:

Sumayah Mansur. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 7 April 2021

When we reached Bir Nabala, we were surprised to see two military jeeps parked sideways on the road, next to the traffic island. I didn’t notice whether there were any other military vehicles there. Further down the road, after the jeeps, two other soldiers were standing close to the traffic island, about 20 meters away from the first ones. One of the soldiers closest to us motioned us with a flashlight to stop. I told Osama, “It looks like the military’s here, Osama, stop.” Osama stopped several meters away from the soldiers. I didn’t see any traffic cones or spikes on the road to stop us. One of the soldiers came over to the driver’s side and started shouting at Osama in Hebrew, “Why didn’t you stop? I waved at you to stop from far away, and but you didn’t.” Even though Osama had stopped, he answered the soldier in Hebrew, “I didn’t see you. Believe me, I’m so exhausted I didn’t notice you.” The soldier asked him, “Where are you from and where are you going?” Osama answered that we’d been at the doctor’s and were on our way back to our village, Bidu. He didn’t ask for our IDs, for the car documents or for anything else. We were driving a “mashtubah” (unlicensed vehicle).

After that, Osama started driving again, and one of the soldiers fired a bullet that hit the back of the car. I started screaming, “Osama, Osama, they’re shooting at us! Stop! Stop, or they’ll kill us!” He said to me, “Stop? They’ll spray us with bullets.” He sped up, and a massive volley of bullets hit the car from behind. The soldiers who were up ahead weren’t in our lane, but they also started shooting at us, even before we’d come near. Bullets and glass shards were flying everywhere. I think at least three bullets hit the car in front, and dozens penetrated it from behind. I was so scared that I hid my head between my legs to duck the bullets. The car started zigzagging. I told Osama I was injured, because I felt things hitting me in the back. He told me, “I’ve been hit, too.” Then he went quiet. Those were his last words. I saw he’d been hit in the head. He wasn’t saying anything and his body was leaning towards me. I thought he wouldn’t be able to drive like that, so I pressed down on the gas and steered the car to avoid running into anything. When I thought we were out of the soldiers’ sight and range, I stopped on the right side of the road and pulled the handbrake. I was in shock. I screamed at my husband, who was unconscious, “Osama! Osama!” but he didn’t react.

B.’A. (57), who lives on the street where the incident occurred, came home after his wife notified him that soldiers were firing tear gas canisters nearby. After the tear gas fire stopped, the couple stayed up. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 6 April 2021, he recalled:

The windshield of the couple’s car, pierced by bullets.

At around 2:30 A.M., my wife and I were still awake. I heard the military vehicles come back to our area. I saw about five of them on the traffic island in front of our home and about 10 soldiers standing outside. I assumed they were planning to raid a store or someone’s home. There was hardly any traffic and the soldiers didn’t stop the cars that were passing by. The road was well-lit and I was watching it from the porch with my children.

Soon after that, I saw a private car coming from the direction of Bir Nabala. It was driving at average speed. When it was about 10 meters from the soldiers, one of them motioned the driver to stop. The car stopped and three soldiers went over to the driver’s side. I heard one of them shouting at the driver in Hebrew, which I understand well. The soldier asked him why he hadn’t stopped, and the driver replied that he had stopped, and they continued arguing. After less than a minute, the car drove away. At that moment, there were no soldiers in front of it. The car had gone only a few meters when the soldiers called out the driver to stop, but he didn’t. They opened fire at the car from behind, yelling “Stop! Stop!”

I heard a single gunshot, followed by a massive volley. At first, I heard bullets hit the rear window of the car and heard it shatter, but I can’t say for sure how many bullets hit it. Once the car was hit, it started zigzagging. It almost crashed into something or into the sidewalk more than three times, but every time straightened out and kept going. After the car had gone about half a kilometer, it was out of my sight. Then the shooting stopped. While the shooting was going on, I saw three or four soldiers kneeling in a sniping position. I was pretty sure the passengers had been hit, because so many bullets had been fired at them.

About 10 to 15 minutes later, the military vehicles headed towards the village of al-Jib, about half a kilometer away. I decided to go there and see what was happening. I stopped about 100 meters from the military vehicles and from a Palestinian ambulance that had arrived and was standing by the damaged car.

An hour or an hour and a half after the incident, soldiers and Border Police officers came back to the area and collected the empty shell casings from the road. In the morning, I saw some casings that the forces must have missed.

A few minutes after Sumayah Mansur stopped the car, about 700 meters from the flying checkpoint, several young men arrived and took the couple to a clinic in Bidu, where Osama was given first aid. Within minutes, an ambulance drove the couple to hospital in Ramallah, taking a roundabout route to avoid encountering soldiers. Osama arrived at the hospital unconscious. He was taken to the trauma ward and from there to the operating room. Sumayah was examined and treated for injuries from shrapnel and broken glass. Osama was pronounced dead about an hour later.

In her testimony, Sumayah further recounted:

I kept asking my relatives and my husband’s relatives, who had come to the hospital, how Osama was doing, but they didn’t give me clear answers. I was terribly anxious, and they only told me at 5:00 A.M. that Osama had passed away.

Half an hour later, I was discharged with a painkiller prescription and disinfectants for my wounds.

Whoever killed my husband broke my heart. He was my soulmate, and they made five children orphans. May God have mercy on his soul. He’d just been released two months ago from detention for illegally entering Israel. They very quickly nipped our joy at being reunited, and at his seeing the children again, in the bud.

  • On 19 November 2021, media reports stated that the case was still under investigation.