Israeli Military Police Launch Probe Two Months After Shooting of Unarmed Suspect

Iyad Azbarka from the Arab town of Kalansua crashed a stolen car while he was fleeing soldiers

Iyad Azbarka, whom the Military Police shot dead after a car chase in April 2018.

Two months after soldiers shot an unarmed Israeli-Arab man suspected of car theft, the Military Police have launched an investigation.

The victim, Iyad Azbarka, a 28-year-old resident of Kalansua in central Israel, was driving a stolen car when soldiers gave chase. He slammed the car into an empty bus stop near Ariel in the West Bank and tried to flee. According to Azbarka’s family, the soldiers shot him in the back.

The Military Police refused to give the family the autopsy report. Though the incident occurred in early April, a decision to open an investigation was only made recently.

Azbarka was driving a car that had been stolen in Hadera during the night. The vehicle had a tracking chip from the security company Ituran, which located it hours after the theft. According to a source at the company, the vehicle was located on Israel’s Route 5, but during the chase Azbarka drove into the West Bank.

A lawyer of the Azbarka family, Nadav Ben Ami, contacted the army several few times asking for a Military Police investigation. A week after the incident the army told Haaretz that it “was examining the possibility” of launching a probe.

On May 21, the head of investigations for the military advocate general, Maj. Avishai Kaplan, wrote to the attorney, saying, “The decision regarding the need to open an investigation is in the hands of the military advocate general.”

He added: “At the same time, noting that following the incident an operational debriefing was conducted, the military advocate general must consult with the commander as long as it is believed that a Military Police investigation should be opened. A final decision must be made within 14 weeks of the date of the incident.”

Fuad Azbarka, Iyad’s brother, told Haaretz that no one had contacted the family on the matter.

“We haven’t been informed of anything by the army or the Military Police. We’re constantly in touch with them and sending them letters,” he said, adding that at the time of the shooting, his brother was due to be engaged in two weeks.

Azbarka had a criminal record and served four years for his involvement in a shooting connected to a family dispute. “He was after rehabilitation,” Fuad Azbarka said. “He got four and a half years in prison, was released and rehabilitated, and everything was fine.”

For its part, the IDF spokesman said: “The decision to launch an investigation was made after the examination of the incident was completed and studied by the office of the military advocate general. The timing of the decision will not prevent an effective investigation.”