Boys returning from night out at the pool become target of fatal shooting
Late night on Tuesday, 21 June 2016, soldiers shot and killed Mahmoud Badran, a 15-year-old from Beit Ur a-Tahta and wounded four of his friends. The shots were fired at a car with seven passengers inside, who were making their way back from a night out at a water park. The military initially announced the soldiers had “targeted terrorists who were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli cars on Road 443”, but later changed its version and stated the boy had been “mistakenly” killed, and that the MPIU was investigating the incident. Research conducted by B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad indicates that the soldiers used heavy fire against the moving car without any justification.
At around 1:30 A.M., seven residents from the village of Beit Ur a-Tahta were making their way home after a night out at the Lin Land waterpark in the village of Beit Sira. Ahed Hilal, 21, drove six other passengers, all cousins under the age of 16: Da'wood Abu Hassan, 13 and his 16-year-old brother Amir; Hadi Badran, 15; Mahmoud Raafat Badran, 15; Majd, 16 and Majed, 13. When the car approached a narrow underpass used by Palestinian vehicles to get across Road 443, soldiers standing on the road, on top of the underpass, opened massive fire at the car from a distance of 40 to 50 meters. Most of the passengers in the car were hit by the shots, including the driver, who lost control and crashed into a wall.
Five of the seven passengers were hit in the shooting: Mahmoud Badran was killed instantly and four passengers were injured: Ahed, the driver, and Amir sustained serious injuries and Hadi and Dawood suffered medium injuries. The injured passengers ran out of the car and took cover in the underpass. Amir Badran was later taken to hospital in Israel.
Hadi Badran, who suffered mid-level bullet injuries in the hand and chest said in his testimony that he had not noticed any suspicious activity on the road prior to the shooting:
I was sitting in the middle seat. We came up to the underpass under the Road 443 bridge. Everything was normal and there was nothing suspicious. Suddenly we were under fire. I looked at the direction the fire was coming from and saw a white civilian car. There were two people there, in civilian clothing, and they were the ones shooting at us. There were a lot of shots. The bullets hit the car and shattered the windows. We got hit and started screaming. I put my head down between the seats. Immediately after that, the driver crashed into the underpass supporting wall.
Dawood Badran described the moments of terror during and after the shooting in his testimony:
The bullets entered the car through the roof, and from the direction of the driver. There was screaming, and mayhem inside. I was scared. I put my hands on my head and put my head down between my legs. The driver must have been hit, which is why he veered off and crashed into the wall. At first, I felt I got hit in my left arm. When the car stopped, I got out and ran away. I stood under the bridge and then a felt another hit in the right leg. Majd went out of the car with me, but he ran in another direction. Amir was hit in the stomach and fell down right away. Hadi was hit in the hand, and the driver, Ahed, was hit in the head and chest. Mahmoud didn’t get out of the car, and when Majd went to see what was going on with him, he saw he wasn’t alive. The only ones who didn’t get hurt were Majd and Majed. I talked to my family and told them what happened so they would send us help.
The testimonies given by the passengers indicate that more soldiers who arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting prevented Palestinian residents and Palestinian ambulance crews from tending to the wounded. They also prevented an Israeli ambulance crew that arrived at the scene from giving the wounded medical treatment for some ten minutes. One of the commanders of the unit accused the wounded boys of having thrown stones, but they showed him their swimsuits and towels and got the impression he understood they had not been involved in stone throwing.
B’Tselem’s research indicates that the soldiers unlawfully fired at the moving car, in violation of the open-fire regulations, which permit use of deadly fire only in circumstances of a clear and immediate threat to life, which was not the case in this incident.
Media reports indicate that the soldiers and officer who opened fire belonged to the Duchifat regiment of the Kfir brigade, and that they were passing by, on their way to take care of logistical matters. Military officials told the press that the force shot at persons who had thrown stones and Molotov cocktails, spilled oil on the road and caused light injuries to Israeli passengers, when in fact, the soldiers arbitrarily fired at the car, having no indication that any of its passengers had been involved in stone or Molotov cocktail throwing.
B’Tselem was unable to examine the car, or Mahmound Badran’s body, as the military seized both, but the descriptions given by the witnesses and the scope of the injuries that were documented indicate that massive fire was directed at the car itself and that the shooting soldiers would clearly have known that the passengers might get hurt. The testimonies given by the car passengers indicate that the soldiers took no precautions and did not try to minimize the harm to the passengers.
This shooting incident is a direct result of military policy which enables, despite the official prohibition in the open-fire regulations, to use deadly fire even in cases where there is no threat to life and even when the soldiers have other, non-lethal, means at their disposal. This policy is backed by the most senior ranking military and government officials who do nothing do change it, despite the lethal results.
The military did say the MPIU had launched an investigation into the incident, however, as B’Tselem contended in a report published about a month ago, the military law enforcement system mainly serves as a whitewashing mechanism, which means there is scant hope that this investigation would lead to systemic change in military policy or bring justice. This position is based on knowledge gained by processing hundreds of complaints filed with the military law enforcement system over the years, and scores of MPIU investigation files B’Tselem has reviewed. This experience has led us to realize that there is no longer any point in promoting justice and human rights protection by working with an system whose accomplishments are measured by its ability to continue to successfully whitewash any breach of law and protect the offenders. Accordingly, B’Tselem has announced it would no longer refer complaints to the military law enforcement system. However, as we have also announced, we will continue to thoroughly investigate such incidents and bring them to the public’s attention. The publication of this research is part of this new policy.