Israeli Military Closes Probe Into Death of Palestinian Protester Mustafa Tamimi

This is the second time in recent months that an investigation into a death of a Palestinian protester ends in no charges.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The army announced on Thursday it was closing its investigation into the death of Mustafa Tamimi, a Palestinian who was killed by an IDF soldier while participating in a West Bank protest in 2011.

Tamimi, 27, died after sustaining a direct hit from a gas grenade fired at close range by an IDF soldier during a protest at the village of Nebi Salah in December 2011.

This is the second time in recent months that an investigation into a death of a Palestinian protester has been discontinued with no one being charged; in September, the military prosecution terminated its investigation into the 2009 killing of Bassem Abu-Rahma.

IDF policy forbids the shooting of gas grenades in direct trajectory; when fired laterally at its target, the grenade's impact is often lethal. In order to preserve their function as non-lethal crowd-dispersing weapons, grenade-launchers are trained to fire at a projectile trajectory. In addition, IDF soldiers are instructed to always look through the guns' sights when shooting.

Testifying before military police investigators, the soldier who fired the grenade said he did not see Tamimi when he pulled the trigger. He stated that he fired in response to a massive barrage of rocks being thrown at the vehicle he was in, and that he did not see anybody in his line of fire. This account was adopted by others in the IDF Central Command, and was backed up by Military Advocate for Operational Matters Lt. Col. Ronen Hirsch's Thursday announcement.

Hirsch said military investigators got hold of videos taped at the protest, through which "it was possible to construct the full picture of the incident." An expert, said Hirsch, "concluded that due to the narrow opening of the jeep's door, and Tamimi's movement toward the vehicle, the soldier could not see Tamimi when he fired the shot."

"The shooting was conducted according to protocol and in full accordance to relevant guidelines, and no law was broken when it was carried out. Therefore, the case was closed with no judicial actions put forth before any party," Hirsch explained in a letter addressed to human rights organization B'Tzelem and the law offices of Lea Tsemel and Abu Hussein.

"The decision illustrates a disregard for Palestinian life in the West Bank," B'Tzelem said in their response to the announcement, "and the next death is only a matter of time We find it difficult to understand how such shooting, from within a moving jeep, under circumstances where it was unclear nobody would be hurt, can be considered legal."

The organization stated that they would next week file a request with Chief Military Prosecutor, Colonel Dani Efroni, to receive copies of the investigation material in order "to continue the struggle of the Tamimi family."

Last September, the military decided to end an investigation into a similarly fatal shooting which took place in April 2009 in Bil'in, when an IDF soldier armed with a grenade launcher killed Basem Abu Rahma, who was participating in the village's weekly demonstration against the security barrier. Despite the extensive footage of the shooting – documented in the Oscar-nominated film ''Five Broken Cameras" - the military prosecutor's office decided to close the investigation due to a lack of evidence.

Mustafa Tamimi just after he was hit by a tear gas canister that killed him. Credit: AP
Mourners surrounding the body of Mustafa Tamimi during his funeral in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Dec. 11, 2011.Credit: Miki Kratsman

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