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Israeli soldier fires without cause at Palestinian car passing by post, killing the driver and injuring his sister

On the morning of 31 October 2017, Muhammad Musa, 26, and his sister Latifah, 34, a married mother of five, traveled from their village, Deir Ballut – which lies west of Salfit – to Ramal...
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Israeli soldier fires without cause at Palestinian car passing by post, killing the driver and injuring his sister

Muhammad Musa. Photo courtesy of the familyOn the morning of 31 October 2017, Muhammad Musa, 26, and his sister Latifah, 34, a married mother of five, traveled from their village, Deir Ballut – which lies west of Salfit – to Ramallah. Muhammad was going to pick up his truck driver’s license from the Ministry of Transportation in Ramallah, and Latifah was going to take her driving test. At around 8:45 A.M., the two arrived at a roundabout near the village of a-Nabi Saleh (next to the settlement of Halamish). As the car entered the roundabout, two soldiers came out of a nearby military post located south of the roundabout and to the right of the car. The post is made up of a shade canopy, concrete blocks and plastic barriers. According to media reports, the soldiers had been notified that a suspect vehicle was approaching them. They ordered the car to stop and opened fire at it. B’Tselem’s investigation found that one of the soldiers immediately fired an automatic round at the upper part of the car, hitting the windshield, and continued to shoot after the car had passed him. Muhammad Musa was injured in the upper body, but continued driving eastwards for another 150 meters or so, and only then stopped the car. Latifah Musa was injured in the shoulder.

In a testimony she gave to B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad on 2 November 2017, Latifah Musa said:

When we drove into the roundabout near Halamish I was busy loading my cellphone card. Muhammad was talking to me about how I should start wearing a jilbab (a long garment worn over clothes) instead of pants, and saying that he wanted us to go walking and shopping together in Ramallah. Suddenly, two soldiers that I hadn’t noticed before jumped up next to the car. One of them was aiming his weapon at us. I saw the other soldier trying to keep him from shooting, but the soldier fired a shot, and then several more shots at us.

Muhammad was driving slowly because he was inside the roundabout. The soldiers may have ordered him to stop, I don’t remember, but because of the shooting, he was scared and might have been confused. He never tried to run anyone over, and he never veered towards them. He just kept driving towards Ramallah, as the bullets penetrated the window after we passed the soldiers. I don’t remember exactly how many shots were fired, but they came one after the other. The rear window shattered, and the bullets hit the car.

I was injured in the right shoulder. At first, I hardly felt I’d been hit because of the shock and panic and because the bullets were flying at us. I could barely focus and understand what was happening. My brother kept driving until he was about 150 meters away from the soldiers and then he stopped. He was worried about me and said: “Sister, I think you’re bleeding”. He saw the blood seeping through my clothes above the shoulder. I had some drops of blood on my face, too. He stopped the car, opened the door to get out and said: “Oh no”. I realized he had been hurt and he didn’t want to tell me. I saw blood seeping through his clothes in the back and near the hip. It was also on his seat. He tried to hail someone to get first aid. 

Muhammad Nafe’a, a 22-year-old student from Ni’lin who also works as a taxi driver, was driving students to Birzeit University in his taxi van when he saw the siblings’ car in the roundabout.

Illustration: The site of the incident

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad on 1 November 2017, Nafe’a described what happened next:

Muhammad Nafe’a. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’TselemI drove into the Halamish roundabout. When I was in the center of the roundabout, there was a car in front of me, going toward Ramallah. Two soldiers came out of the military post and went over to the car. It wasn’t going fast because of the curve. One of the soldiers, who was a few meters away from me, shouted in Hebrew, a language I fully understand. He ordered the driver to stop and at the same time, fired an automatic round at the car. The driver didn’t stop. The soldier fired directly at the top part of the car. The other soldier said to him: “Why are you doing that? It’s a mistake to act that way!” The soldier who had fired the shots answered: “Stay out of it. It’s my job”. The car kept going and stopped at a bend in the road, about 150 meters away.

The two soldiers headed towards the stopped car, but turned around before they reached it and went back to the military parampost. Muhammad Nafe’a stopped near the car and some of his passengers got out. Latifah, who felt faint, was taken to hospital in Ramallah by a driver passing by. She underwent tests and x-rays at the hospital and was diagnosed with a fractured shoulder. She had surgery to repair the fracture. 

Nafe’a and others who arrived at the scene called Magen David Adom (Israeli emergency medical response)and the Palestinian Red Crescent, to get an ambulance for Muhammad Musa. In the meantime, Nafe’a and one of his passengers tried to stop his bleeding. Musa was still fully conscious. A few minutes later, some military jeeps and a police car arrived, followed after a few minutes by an Israeli ambulance. Not one of the soldiers, police officers or Israeli paramedics gave Musa first aid. About ten minutes after the shooting, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance arrived, and two paramedics got out and went over to Musa. Shortly after that, they were joined by an Israeli paramedic and another Israeli, both of whom had apparently arrived in the Israeli ambulance. The two assisted for a short while, but then the officers and soldiers halted the paramedics’ work. .

שמשת מכוניתם של האחים מוסא, מנוקבת בקליעי החיילים. צילום:
The bullet-riddled windshield of Muhammad and Latifah Musa’s car. Photo by Ahmad Khabazi, 31 October 2017

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad on 21 November 2017, Maamun Manasrah, a paramedic with the Red Crescent, described what happened:

Maamun Manasrah. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 21 November 2017

As soon as we got there, I saw a Magen David Adom ambulance that had got there before us. No one had given first aid to the injured man. I started examining him and asked my colleague Bassam to bring the first aid kit, the scissors and an oxygen tank. I started treating the injured man immediately. His condition seemed stable. He was conscious, all his vitals were normal, and he was talking and breathing. He was concerned about the other injured person and kept asking, “Where’s my sister? What happened to my sister”?

An Israeli paramedic came over to the injured man and only put tape over the bandage. Neither she nor the other Israelis provided any other help. They didn’t even get the first aid kit out of their ambulance. As I was about to put the second IV into the injured man’s arm, the police officers kicked us out of there. Bassam asked them to wait until we connected the man to the IV drip, but they refused. One of the officers told us to put everything away and leave. He said: “Enough, go, don’t do anything, go back to your vehicle”.

Bassam ‘Abed, a paramedic and ambulance driver for the al-Birah Red Crescent, also described what happened in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad on 2 November 2017:

The soldiers told us to step away from the injured man, even though we were the ones giving him first aid and had only managed to put in an IV and dress the back wound. We obeyed the order and stopped treating him. The man started losing consciousness. His body went limp and started turning blue. We asked to hook him up to an oxygen mask, but the soldiers ordered us to leave, so we had to gather our equipment and back away. I told the soldiers in English that he really needed oxygen and fluids, and that he must stay awake and not lose consciousness. One of them replied: “We’ll give him all that. Don’t worry”. The Israeli paramedics got a stretcher down and put the injured man in the Israeli ambulance with the help of some people in civilian clothing and some armed soldiers. The way they lifted him didn’t conform to casualty evacuation guidelines, and the IV we’d put in fell in the process.

Muhammad Musa was evacuated in a Magen David Ambulance to Beilinson Hospital in Israel, where he died of his wounds shortly after arrival. His sister, Latifah Musa, was released from hospital in Ramallah on 5 November 2017..

Latifah Musa in hospital. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 2 November 2017

In her testimony, she described her feelings:

They didn’t tell me my brother had died until the next day. I was shocked, mostly because when I left him he was breathing and talking, and I could never have imagined he would die. A few minutes before that we had been joking, listening to songs and taking pictures for Snapchat, and we were happy. You can’t imagine how happy we were. All of a sudden, fate tore my brother away from our home. The happy days and moments are only memories.

B’Tselem’s investigation found that the soldier shot and killed Muhammad Musa and injured his sister, Latifah Musa, without any justification and without facing any danger. He even continued to fire at the car and its passengers after it had passed him. The testimonies also indicate that all the Israeli personnel on the scene – the soldiers originally present, the security forces that arrived later and the paramedics – refrained  from giving the injured Palestinians medical treatment for several minutes. They later interfered in the actions of the Palestinian paramedics who treated Muhammad Musa him without any explanation and put the injured man in the Israeli ambulance in a rough, negligent manner that may have exacerbated his condition. Musa is the 36th Palestinian killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank since the beginning of 2017.

According to media reports, the Military Police Investigation Unit has launched an investigation into the incident, and the commander of the force in charge of the military post has been suspended. However, based on past experience, this is unlikely to result in the prosecution of the persons responsible for the illegal killing, certainly not senior ranking officials. This experience, which shows that such investigations nearly always end in whitewash, is what led B’Tselem to stop referring cases to the Military Advocate General’s Corps for investigation. This does not change the fact that the military system still has an obligation to investigate the grave incident and bring those responsible to justice. Nevertheless, as long as the MAG Corps continues its systematic whitewashing of the killing and injury of Palestinians at the hands of security forces, nothing will deter them or finally bring an end to this lethal use of fire in the Occupied Territories. 

On 31 October 2017 media reports stated that an MPIU investigation has been launched. On 13 May 2019 media reports stated that the MAG had decided to close the case because the soldiers who had fired had acted in accordance with open-fire regulations and because their operational actions did not evince ethic deficiency.

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