Israel's Justice Ministry Contradicts Police on East Jerusalem Arab’s Killing

Cops had said car theft suspect was shot to death in chase, investigators said he was killed after getting out of his car

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Six people have been killed by Israeli police this year.
Six people have been killed by Israeli police this year.Credit: Police spokesperson

The Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct announced Sunday evening that the policeman who shot and killed a resident of East Jerusalem suspected of stealing a car did so after the man had emerged from his vehicle – which contradicts an earlier police statement that the shooting was done during a car chase.

The statement said the policeman involved in the case was released with restrictions, and that a gag order was placed on releasing his name.

The man killed was identified as Fares Abu Nab from East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud neighborhood.

Jerusalem police had stated earlier that “the deceased had endangered the lives of policemen and other users of the road, and that in response he was shot in order to neutralize the threat he posed.” The police would not say how Abu Nab was endangering policemen at the scene.

Police said the officers involved were chasing suspected car thieves in the Givat Masua neighborhood of Jerusalem, not far from the checkpoint leading to the Tunnel Road.

Police said they spotted three stolen cars heading for Bethlehem. One of the drivers was endangering the police car and other cars on the road, the original statement added, and in response, the officers “fired at the suspect to neutralize the threat.”

On Sunday night three other East Jerusalem residents were arrested on suspicion of belonging to the gang of alleged car thieves that included Abu Nab. The three arrived in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court with signs of violence on their bodies. Their attorneys said they had been beaten by policemen, while the police representative said the three suspects were the ones who had acted violently, against the policemen. One of the defense attorneys accused police of murdering Abu Nab. The court extended the three suspects’ detention by five days.

On Thursday, a policewoman shot a Tamra resident during a police chase, severely wounding him. Police were summoned to Tamra after a woman complained that a man had smashed his car against hers several times while she and her children were in it. The police report says that when officers arrived on the scene the man escaped and they started chasing him, and the policewoman fired her gun during this chase. The Police Internal Investigation Department questioned the policewoman and she was released under restrictions.

Six people have died so far this year in incidents that involved the use of force by the police, but none of the policemen involved has yet been indicted.

Only in two of the six cases did the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct question the policemen as suspects. But one of those cases was ultimately closed, while the other – the shooting of Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Teka by an off-duty policeman in Kiryat Haim in June – is awaiting a decision by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

The latest such killing, of, took place before dawn Sunday, as Abu Nab was hit and later died of his injuries. Four other suspects were arrested.

The Justice Ministry department has opened an inquiry, but hasn’t yet questioned the policeman who opened fire.

The first of this year’s killings of civilians by cops took place in January. Ethiopian-Israeli Yehuda Biadga was shot in Bat Yam after police said he tried to knife a policeman who sought to arrest him. The Justice Ministry department concluded, based on testimony from eyewitnesses, that the policeman acted appropriately, so he was never questioned as a suspect.

That same month, Riyad Shamasneh, a Palestinian from a village near Jerusalem, was killed during a car chase on Jerusalem’s Begin Boulevard. The policeman who shot him was questioned as a suspect, but the case was ultimately closed.

In June came the shooting of 18-year-old Teka. Nitzan is slated to decide soon whether the officer who shot him should be prosecuted.

Also in June, 20-year-old Mohammed Abid was shot during clashes with police in East Jerusalem’s Isawiyah neighborhood, apparently after he threw fireworks at the police. In this case, no policemen were questioned as suspects.

In September, 43-year-old Avi Hasson of Ashdod was killed at the Ashdod police station as he was being taken to a cell after being arrested for disturbing the peace. Police said he went wild inside the station, so they shot him several times with a Taser. The policeman who used the Taser said he did so because Hasson was endangering himself by banging his own head against the bars with great force.

Hasson lost consciousness and eventually died, but it’s not yet clear that the electric shocks are what caused his death. Suspicions also arose that he had taken drugs or ingested some poisonous substance, and that this is what led to his death. Consequently, the Justice Ministry is awaiting the results of an autopsy and lab tests before deciding how to proceed.

Sources involved in the issue said that investigations are opened only against policemen who are suspected of committing crimes. For instance, a border policewoman is now being investigated over an incident in Tamra last Thursday in which she shot and seriously wounded someone while arresting him. She was released with restrictions after being questioned.

There have been two other cases this year in which people died during police chases, but neither involved the police opening fire.

In July, a 22-year-old woman from Kiryat Bialik died when the car she was riding in overturned while fleeing the police. The driver and the other passengers were injured but survived, and were arrested.

In October, a 33-year-old man from Taibeh whom police suspected of car theft crashed into another car on Route 6 as police were chasing him. He was killed instantly.