Israel Police Launch Investigation Into Death of Illegal Palestinian Worker in Tel Aviv

According to witnesses, a contractor apparently left a wounded 54-year-old Palestinian worker for dead on a Tel Aviv Street.

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Israel Police are investigating the death of a 54-year-old Palestinian construction worker from the West Bank whose body was found on a Tel Aviv sidewalk on Monday.

The investigation follows a report in Haaretz which according to witnesses, Ahsan Abu-Srur, of the Askfar refugee camp near Nablus, was left to die by his employer on the sidewalk near a construction site.

Abu-Srur was buried Tuesday at a cemetery at the refugee camp where he lived. He is survived by a wife and six children. His son Hassan recounted that over the past 20 years, the deceased man had worked as a casual laborer at various jobs in Israel. “He would leave for work and remain away from home for almost two weeks and then come back for two or three days and then leave again,” the son said.

The family had not insisted on an autopsy, Hassan Abu-Srur said. “Unfortunately there was no autopsy and after the funeral [had already taken place]. I don’t believe there is anything that can still be done,” he added. “We as a family will demand that we get the whole truth, and if the circumstances enabled dad to have been saved, there is no doubt that this is very serious, involving a real crime.”

Police investigators spoke with witnesses and say they now believe Abu-Srur suffered a cardiac arrest while in a building on Ben Atar Street and that his employer, a contractor, and at least one other person carried him from the site to the sidewalk by his limbs. The contractor then left the site and asked another laborer there to leave with him, according to witnesses, who added that a number of people in the vicinity began yelling at the contractor, making it clear that they saw him abandoning Abu-Srur at the scene.

Records show that at 12:32 P.M. on Monday, the contractor’s brother made an emergency phone call to police, and reported that a man was “laid down on the sidewalk, [and that] apparently a scaffold had fallen on him or he was hurt in a work accident.” The Magen David Adom emergency rescue service also received a call but it said the man had been hit in the head by a rock that fell from the roof and that when he was dragged out to the sidewalk his breathing and pulse had already stopped. Police believe the contractor’s brother also placed the call to Magen David Adom.

The contractor has told police that he did not know Abu-Srur, saying the Palestinian came to the construction site looking for iron scraps that he could sell. The contractor’s statement was contradicted by other witnesses, some of whom live on Ben Atar Street, and claimed that Abu-Srur had been working at the site for a few days and was working at the site Monday, the day of his death, using a hammer shortly before he died. Some of the residents in the vicinity also claimed to have heard the contractor yelling at Abu-Srour inside the building prior to his death.

Witness testimony also raises questions regarding the police response to the incident. Magen David Adom paramedics who were on the scene first said they managed to restore a pulse before bringing Abu-Srur to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. The ambulance apparently took 20 minutes to get to the scene at Ben Atar Street. An officer from the local neighborhood watch, a volunteer-based community policing force, apparently arrived on the scene after the ambulance.

In a video clip shot by a witness the officer talking to the contractor and his brother for roughly 20 minutes. A number of bystanders in the video approached the policeman, Ronen Sharabi, claiming that Abu-Srur had been abandoned on the sidewalk, but Sharabi asked them to leave the scene. When asked about the incident by his superiors, Sharabi is said to have replied that he had asked people on the scene if they had seen anything and if any of them had wanted to file a complaint, but they all declined. “No one said anything,” Sharabi reportedly said.

The video, however, clearly shows at least one person attempting to explain what happened to the policeman. “Why didn’t you tell me this [in the presence of] the contractor?” Sharabi replied on the video. “Why are you saying this when he isn’t here?”

The policeman apparently did not provide witness testimony to police investigators working on the case. Other policemen returned to the scene to gather witness statements. During a visit on Wednesday, investigators also inspected the construction site itself, which had not been done on Monday, because at the time, the investigators had not yet learned that Abu-Srur had died of an apparent cardiac arrest.

The Tel Aviv sidewalk where the body was found.Credit: Motti Milrod
Ahsan Abu-Srur is taken away in an ambulance.Credit: Screenshot

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