After Months of Foot-dragging, Israel Releases Details of Lethal Shooting of Palestinian Siblings

In the incident, the 16-year-old brother and 23-year-old sister were killed by private contractors after the latter pulled a knife at the Qalandiyah checkpoint; new details into the investigation have been cleared for publication at Haaretz's request.

Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, shot after attempted stabbing at Qalandia checkpoint in West Bank. April 28, 2016
Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, shot after attempted stabbing at Qalandia checkpoint in West Bank. April 28, 2016 Reuters, Mohamad Torokman

Only one of the two siblings killed by civilian security guards at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in April had pulled out a weapon – a knife – people who saw the video of the shooting say. At Haaretz’s request, the gag order on the case has been partially lifted.

In the video, the sister, 23-year-old Maram Abu Ismayil, is seen brandishing a knife, while her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah did not have a weapon and even tried to stop her. He did, however, have a knife in his pocket; the family says he normally carried a pocket knife.

According to the people who saw the video, as the two Palestinians approached the West Bank's Qalandiyah checkpoint on April 27, the woman concealed one of her hands inside her bag, while the boy kept one of his hands behind his back.

Israeli security forces stand guard at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, April 27, 2016.
AFP

The two eventually heeded the police’s call to stop. They halted a short distance from the officers and turned away, but the woman spun around and pulled out the knife. When she threw it at one of the officers, two security guards shot the siblings from around 20 meters (66 feet) away.

According to the sources, Tahah repeatedly tried to pull his sister away from the scene. After she pulled out the knife, he came up behind her as if trying to move her away.

The Justice Ministry says it will not let journalists see the footage until a decision is made on whether to indict the two security guards. Sources have told Haaretz this decision will be made in a few days.

The knives found on the bodies of the two Palestinians at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in the West Bank, April 27, 2016.
Israel Police

The police completed their investigation months ago and sent their findings to state prosecutors. When the police finished their probe, their findings, unusually, did not include a recommendation for or against an indictment.

According to eyewitnesses, Palestinian rescue personnel were not allowed to approach the scene, and the two siblings did not endanger the security guards.

A number of police officers and security guards at the checkpoint have been questioned on the matter. The two security guards who fired are suspected of failing to follow open-fire protocol.  

The two guards were suspended when the investigation was launched, and the security firm providing guards at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, Modiin Ezrachi, no longer employs them. Other police officers and Modiin Ezrachi security guards who have been questioned still work at the checkpoint.

A court extended the gag order on the names of the suspects and witnesses for another 90 days.

Sliman Shahin and Nailah Atiyah of the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center are representing the family. Their appeals for access to the footage and the coroner’s report have been denied.