Footage of the incident – which took place about two weeks ago near the village of Kafr Ni’ma and was streamed on Facebook Live – demonstrates that 4.5 minutes elapsed from the time the car hit the Israeli troops and the time the bulk of the gunfire at the car’s passengers began. Nine out of the ten shots fired at the car’s passengers were fired after this interval. Forensic analysis of the clothes worn by the two Palestinians killed by the gunfire, Yusef ‘Anqawi and Amir Dar Daraj, found gunshot residue. The entire chain of events, the IDF Spokesperson’s choice to ignore this time gap, and the forces’ confiscation of CCTV footage from a nearby security camera all raise serious suspicions regarding the circumstances in which the two men were killed. The law imposes clear restrictions on the use of force. It also clearly establishes when security forces are allowed to use live gunfire and shoot to kill. Shooting to kill is permitted only in cases of clear and present mortal danger to them or others. The facts of this incident raise grave concern that, contrary to the IDF Spokesperson’s statement, the forces did not abide by these rules that night.
On Monday, 4 March 2019, at around 2:30 A.M., several military vehicles and about ten soldiers entered the Palestinian village of Kafr Ni’ma, which lies west of Ramallah. The soldiers arrested a resident and left the village. According to the IDF Spokesperson, one of the vehicles got stuck at the eastern exit from the village, and soldiers and Border Police arrived to guard it.
That night, three Palestinians who live in the area – Amir Dar Daraj (21), Yusef ‘Anqawi (19) and H.’A. (17) – drove into the village. According to the military, the young men had earlier thrown Molotov cocktails at Route 443. As the car began making its way out of Kafr Ni’ma, the troops guarding the stuck vehicle used flashlights to signal, from several dozen meters away, the Palestinians to pull over. The driver kept going and hit the military vehicle. The car also hit an officer, seriously injuring him, and a Border Police officer, who sustained mild injuries. H.’A., who was in the back seat, blacked out from the impact of the crash. Ten seconds after the collision, a single gunshot was heard.
Security forces at the scene opened fire at the two other people in the car, Dar Daraj and ‘Anqawi. Forensic analysis commissioned by B’Tselem found gunshot residue on items of Dar Daraj and ‘Anqawi’s clothing left at the scene by the security forces. The troops then arrested H.’A, who had regained consciousness and had not been hit by the gunfire. They also confiscated from a nearby business a security camera that overlooks the area.
In response to questions by Israeli daily Haaretz, The IDF Spokesperson confirmed that Israeli security forces had fired at the people in the car, alleging the gunfire was in response to a car-ramming attack they carried out: “In light of a suspected attempt at a car attack in the village of Ni’ma, which is under the purview of the Ephraim Regional Brigade, an initial command debriefing was carried out. The debriefing found that three terrorists had used their car to run over an IDF officer and Border Police combatant who had stopped by the side of the road. In response, forces on the scene opened fire and neutralized two of the three terrorists”.
However, this statement offers only an incomplete account of the incident. The entire chain of events is clearly evident from the video footage streamed on Facebook Live. In the footage, the Palestinian car is seen driving down the road. Then, the sound of it crashing into the stuck military vehicle is clearly heard. Ten seconds later, a single gunshot is heard. About four and a half minutes later, another six shots are heard; several seconds elapse and then another two shots are heard; another half a minute goes by, and then one final shot is heard. In total, ten shots are heard in the footage, all – apart from the first – were fired quite some time after the collision.
At around 3:00 A.M., M.R. (35) from the village of Bil’in was driving to the factory in Kafr Ni’ma where he works. After the troops standing by the stuck vehicle signaled him to stop, he turned around and drove about 150 meters back up the road and waited there for the soldiers to leave. Another driver, a Palestinian who was on his way to Ramallah, was also waiting there. According to M.R., when the young men’s car drove past, he called out to them and signaled that there were soldiers ahead.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 4 March 2019, M.R. related what happened:
Suddenly, the car crashed into the military vehicle that was blocking the road. I heard the collision, it was loud. Then I heard a gunshot, but I couldn’t tell where it had come from.
I was scared and decided to get out of there, because it was dangerous. The guy in the car next to me also decided to leave. We drove up to the top of the hill, about 200 meters from the area of the crash. We stopped there and got out of our cars to watch what was going on from a safe distance. People were also watching from their windows or porches, I guess once they’d realized something was going on. Some of them came over and stood by us. We stayed there for about five minutes. While we were there all we saw was flashlights moving and soldiers yelling and screaming in Hebrew.
Then I heard gunshots. It wasn’t a continuous volley. I think there were several soldiers firing. I think they were shooting at the Palestinian car, but the fog and dark made it hard to see. The firing lasted about a minute.
Taken together, the testimonies, video footage and forensic analysis paint a picture that the IDF Spokesperson’s statement does not contradict: the two Palestinians killed in the car were shot by the security forces several minutes after the crash. The interval of time that elapsed between the crash and the gunshots raises questions. In addressing them, it is immaterial whether or not the Palestinian driver hit the military vehicle intentionally. The IDF Spokesperson chose to ignore these concerns, although he was asked about them directly. The fact that the security forces at the scene confiscated CCTV footage that may have captured the entire incident also begs an explanation. The two bodies are still being held by the military and cannot be independently examined.
Clear restrictions apply to Israeli security forces’ use of force and firepower: shooting to kill is permitted only in instances of clear and present danger to their lives or to the lives of others. The facts described above give rise to serious concerns that, contrary to the IDF Spokesperson’s statement, the circumstances of this incident did not meet this criterion.