Israeli Army Opens Investigation: Soldiers Shot Palestinian Because He Refused to Stop

The army says West Bank incident, initially reported as attempted car-ramming attack, took place after reports of a suspicious car; information obtained by Haaretz raises questions

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Israeli policemen inspect the scene of a suspected car-ramming attack near the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 31, 2017.
Israeli policemen inspect the scene of a suspected car-ramming attack near the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 31, 2017.Credit: ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

The Israeli army has opened an official investigation into the lethal shooting of a Palestinian whose vehicle approached Israeli soldiers near a West Bank settlement. According to the army, soldiers opened fire on the car after the driver refused to heed their calls to stop.

 Initially, the army had said the soldiers opened fire because they thought it was an attempted car-ramming attack. Sources in the army described the event as very problematic.

The Palestinian driver, 26-year-old Mohammed Abdallah Mussa from the West Bank village of Deir Ballut, was seriously wounded and later died of his wounds. The passenger, Mussa's sister, Latifa Abdallah, 33, was wounded by the gunfire. 

According to the army, soldiers stationed at the site received a report of a vehicle driving suspiciously and were asked to stop it. The soldiers came down to the road and motioned the driver to stop. When he did not do so, the soldiers opened fire, killing the driver and wounding his passenger. 

The probe will be conducted by the internal military police affairs unit, the army said. 

According to information opbtained by Haaretz, the soldiers who fired at the vehicle did not approach the car after it had come to a halt – neither to check the identity and condition of the injured, nor to make sure whether any potential threat had been removed.

According to witnesses, civilians gathered around the vehicle and the soldiers may have waited for reinforcements.

The incident took place Tuesday morning when Mohammed Abdallah Mussa and his sister, Latifa Abdullah, were driving to Ramallah.

Atallah Tamimi, 66, witnessed the incident and brought Latifa to a nearby hospital in Ramallah. “I was driving about 100 meters behind a white Suzuki with the brother and sister," Tamimi said. "They were driving toward Ramallah. There were no soldiers on the road and nobody said or signaled to me or to them to stop. Suddenly I see two soldiers coming out of a tent that was there and they started to shoot at the Suzuki. 

They fired through the back window from far off. The car stopped after a few meters when it got stuck on the shoulder. The two people who were in the car got out and started to shout that they had been shot. He had two bullets in his back and his sister had one. She was screaming hysterically.”

Tamimi’s account raises questions about the conduct of the soldiers at the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. “Right after the shooting they fled back to the tent and they didn’t come out to check the car or who was in it. Nobody from the army came. I took the woman to the hospital in Ramallah when I saw that 10 minutes had passed and nobody official came who could help."

According to Tamimi, Latifa did not speak during the car ride and asked that he not ask her any questions because it was hard for her to talk. Tamimi said he was able to understand that the woman has a Brazilian passport. “Her husband and children are in Brazil and I didn’t understand what she was doing here and how long.”

The fact that a passenger was present in the car is considered unusual. In most car-ramming attacks in the West Bank, the drivers were alone in the car.

Kamal Mussa, the siblings' uncle, told Haaretz: "We strongly reject any claim that Mohammed planned to carry out an attack, that's a lie and a fabrication." According to him, "someone planning to carry out a terror attack does not bring his sister, a mother of five, into the car." Mussa added that Mohammed worked odd jobs and that Latifa is married and has four daughters and a son.

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