Forensic Probe Fails to Determine What Injured Israeli Arab Lawmaker at Bedouin Village Protest

Forensic examination of Ayman Odeh states that head injury could have been caused by sponge-tipped bullet.

Arab Israeli lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh (front row C), wounded during clashes, stands with other Arab Israeli politicians in Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel's southern Negev Desert January 18, 2017.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The Abu Kabir Forensic Institute said on Tuesday it was unable to determine what caused a head injury sustained by Joint List leader Ayman Odeh at recent clashes between protesters and police during the demolition of Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran this month.

Odeh says he was attacked by police and injured in the head and back by sponge-tipped bullets after being sprayed with pepper spray, but police had said he was injured by stones thrown at police by protesters.

“The evidence on [Odeh’s] body were caused by blunt blows,” the summary of the institute’s report said. “It is not possible to nail down [with certainty] the form of the injurious objects, but at the same time, the location of the injury and the form could have been caused as [Odeh] claimed.”

At the Joint List Knesset members’ request, Odeh underwent examination by Dr. Maya Furman-Resnick, director of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, whose report said the injuries “were consistent” with injuries caused by sponge-tipped bullets.

With respect to Odeh’s back injuries, the report stated: “The evidence does not show a clear form, and it is impossible to make a definitive determination with regard to the object causing the injury.”

Odeh said the report revealed “another in a series of lies by the police and the minister responsible [Erdan] on everything related to the brutal evacuation of the village of Umm al-Hiran.”

He alleged that the police know that their criminal conduct is what led to the deaths of two people and have been engaging since then in spreading “lies and disinformation” in an effort to cover up their conduct. Odeh called for an independent state commission of inquiry on the events at the village.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan claimed vindication, saying the press had jumped to conclusions about the cause of Odeh’s injuries. Addressing the press in a series of tweets, Erdan wrote:

“Sad, sad that you are rushing to adopt a version from a lying lawbreaker who has fanned the flames and stood at the head of a violent group.”

“The pathology report clearly states it is impossible to determine the source of Odeh’s injuries. That’s also what the director of the forensic Instititute confirmed to me in a conversation,” Erdan tweeted.

The confrontation in Umm al-Hiran occurred in the course of demonstrations two weeks ago against demolitions of homes built without authorization at the unrecognized Bedouin village,

The site is slated to be replaced by a Jewish town called Hiran. In the clashes, policeman Erez Levi, was killed after being struck by a vehicle driven by Bedouin motorist, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, who was shot dead at the scene under disputed circumstances.

Referring to the death of Levi, police said the incident is being investigated by the Justice Ministry, so they cannot comment.

Previously police said Abu al-Kiyan deliberately rammed Levi with his car and was then shot by police. But witnesses say Abu al-Kiyan lost control of his car and hit the officers only after he was shot.

Video from a police helicopter released by police shows officers approaching the car and shooting, after which the car speeds up and hits the officers. It is unclear what preceded the shooting, and whether Abu al-Kiyan was still alive and in control of the vehicle when it accelerated.

The police said that at no point did Israel Police issued a statement regarding the circumstances of MK Odeh's injury.