Killing of Bedouin Driver: New Video Contradicts Claim by Israeli Police

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Bedouin killed by police is seen driving with his headlights on.
Bedouin killed by police is seen driving with his headlights on.Credit: Screenshot

In a clip filmed by Al-Jazeera, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan can be seen driving with his lights on – and not as the police and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have claimed – just before running over and killing police Sgt. Maj. Erez Levi and injuring another officer.

In addition, two weeks after the incident, the Shin Bet security service has said it has yet to find any evidence linking al-Kiyan to the Islamic State organization, a connection mooted early on by police and Erdan.

Contrary to police claim, Bedouin killed by cops seen driving with his headlights onCredit: Haaretz

The incident occurred January 18 in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, after police officers arrived to demolish illegally built structures in the village.  The police accused al-Kiyan of deliberately trying to run over and kill police officers in a terrorist attack.

The police and other witnesses say the incident took place at 5:57 A.M., when it was still dark out. Later that day, police released a video clip filmed from a police helicopter overhead. “In the film you can see the terrorist standing on the side of the road with the lights of his car off, and the minute he notices the team of [police] he accelerates at them and hits them,” said the police. But in the film, shot with a thermal camera, it is not possible to see whether the lights of al-Kiyan’s jeep are off or not. Erdan repeated the police’s claim, saying it proved al-Kiyan’s intentions to run over the police officers.  

The Al-Jazeera film was analyzed by activists from two organizations, ActiveStills and Forensic Architecture, which have gathered materials on the incident in an attempt to understand what happened. In the film, al-Kiyan’s jeep can be seen, before it accelerates, with its lights on. At the same time shots can be heard and the police officers are yelling “fire,” then the jeep speeds up.

A number of witnesses said al-Kiyan’s vehicle continued on after he was shot and at that point it seems he lost control of the jeep, after which he hit Levi and another police officer. The police reject this claim.

The autopsy showed al-Kiyan had been hit twice by bullets, once in the right knee and the other time, which caused his death, in an artery in his chest. The autopsy results do not provide a full answer whether his being shot caused al-Kiyan to speed up or whether he lost control of his vehicle. 

The autopsy did find that he died about 15 minutes after being shot, and that if he had been treated immediately it might have been possible to save him.

The final pathologist’s report has not yet been submitted to police.

Police did not answer questions from Haaretz on whether they still stand by their statement that al-Kiyan drove with his lights off. The incident is still under investigation by the Justice Ministry department responsible for investigating police officers, so police are unable to answer such questions, said a police spokesman.

The Justice Ministry unit has begun looking into al-Kiyan’s shooting and related events, but has yet to open an official investigation. The unit is now gathering evidence from police officers and other witnesses, as well as collecting the police and medical reports, as well as other evidence. The unit is still waiting for the results of a number of tests, which it hopes will clarify when and by whom al-Kiyan was shot, said a source involved in the case.  

Another question concerning the incident is whether a connection exists between al-Kiyan and ISIS, as police and Erdan claimed soon after the incident. The police said al-Kiyan was active in the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, which runs candidates for Knesset and forswears violence, and were investigating if he had a link to ISIS. Later in the day they reported they found a great deal of material in his home relating to terrorist attacks.

The Shin Bet told Haaretz that so far the investigation had discovered no evidence that al-Kiyan identified with ISIS, but the investigation has not yet been completed.

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