IDF Won't Investigate Death of Bil'in Activist From Tear Gas Grenade

A year after activist Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed by the IDF, the military prosecution decided not investigate his death.

A year after activist Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed by a tear gas grenade in a protest near the village of Bil'in, the military prosecution decided it would not investigate his death.

Abu Rahmeh, a resident of Bil'in, took part in a protest against the separation fence constructed near the village on April 17, 2009. Footage of the event shows that at one point several demonstrators approached the fence and soldiers began shooting tear gas grenades in their direction.

Abu Rahmeh was standing further back and to the side, next to artist David Reev, who was filming. One of the tear gas grenades fired by the soldiers from about 30 meters away hit Abu Rahmeh in the chest, causing massive internal injuries, and he died at the scene.

The incident was documented by three different video cameras. Abu Rahmeh's family sent the footage to ballistics experts, who cross-sectioned the images and concluded the grenade was fired directly at Abu Rahmeh, contrary to rules of engagement for the weapon.

Immediately after the incident, human rights organization B'Tselem and the family petitioned the Israel Defense Forces to open a military police investigation.

The IDF delayed its decision for over a year, until finally releasing a statement on Sunday. "We have approached military officials for their comments on the alleged incident. After examining the materials we received, we came to believe there was no basis found to the claim a tear gas grenade was aimed and fired directly at Abu Rahmeh," the statement read.

"The inquiry shows that there are two possible explanations for the injury: A. The injured man was standing on an elevated spot, and intersected the firing line of the grenade or B. The ammunition fired hit the upper wires of the fence, which changed its trajectory."

The family's attorney, Michael Sfard, said the decision shows that internal Israeli probes could not be trusted.

"The military prosecution's decision provides more regrettable proof that the Goldstone Committee had been right to say we cannot rely on Israeli law enforcement and an internationally monitored investigation is necessary," he said. "Someone deciding not to investigate is someone who has something to hide. If the effort and creativity invested in preventing investigations were instead directed to unraveling the killing of unarmed civilians, maybe the military prosecution would not need to resort to using physical theories that sound like they were taken from a cartoon."