Justice Ministry Begins Probe Into Death of Israeli Arab in Kafr Kana

Officers provide their version of events; security video to be collected and ballistics tests to be conducted.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Israeli security forces detain an Israeli Arab youth during clashes in the town of Kfar Kana, in northern Israel on Nov. 9, 2014.
Israeli security forces detain an Israeli Arab youth during clashes in the town of Kfar Kana, in northern Israel on Nov. 9, 2014.Credit: AFP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Justice Ministry’s department that investigates police officers yesterday launched a probe into the death of Khayr al-Din Hamdan in Kafr Kana on Saturday morning, with the policemen involved giving their version of the events.

The department has also begun collecting video clips from security cameras in the area and conducting ballistics tests. The department’s head attorney, Uri Carmel, is leading the probe.

When the incident became public, the policemen claimed that the attacker had tried to stab them, and when they felt their lives were in danger they fired in the air and later felt it necessary to shoot him.

But the widely viewed video that documented the incident raises suspicions that the policemen did not observe open-fire regulations.

The officer who shot Hamdan was apparently the driver of the police car, who isn’t seen in the video until Hamdan falls to the ground. No firing in the air is seen.

The department is also investigating the police officers’ conduct after Hamdan was hit. In the video they are seen dragging him, alive but wounded, into the patrol car instead of calling an ambulance or trying to treat him at the scene.

The Walla website reported that the police officer who shot Hamdan claimed under questioning that he hadn’t aimed at Hamdan’s upper body, but at the hand holding the knife, in an effort to neutralize him.

“The bullet, unfortunately, hit the young man in the waist and caused severe bleeding from his artery, which ultimately led to his death,” he was quoted as saying. Hamdan died of his wounds at Ha’emek Hospital in Afula.

According to that report, during questioning the police officers said the reason they feared for their lives was that the area was problematic, which is why they dragged Hamdan to the patrol car and didn’t call for medical help. They said they feared that other village residents would come to attack them.

Attorney Zev Nir, who represents the police officer who shot Hamdan, said the officer was questioned and they are now “waiting for all the politics and the flames to die down. As far as he’s concerned, he acted as he was taught to act and as they had trained him to act.”

Nir added that he believed it wasn’t proper to judge the incident solely by the video.

“We don’t know the source of the video and whether it was edited or not,” he said. “We’re talking about the salt of the earth, a modest person who works with all sectors and never discriminated against one sector or another.” Nir added that the police officer has been assigned a bodyguard.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said that after the investigation department finishes its work, a team will be set up to probe the officers’ conduct in the incident. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein also convened an emergency meeting yesterday and called for the investigation to be completed as quickly as possible.

The incident began early Saturday morning, when police from the Nazareth station came to Kafr Kana to arrest a man suspected of throwing a stun grenade during a family fight. Instead, Hamdan, 22, came to the spot with a knife in his hand and tried to stab them, the officers said.

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