Palestinian Cop Accused of Killing Israeli in Nablus Acquitted of Murder Charges

Judge rules that it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that shots fired by Nawaf Fahd Bani Oudeh are what killed Ben Yosef Livnat at Joseph's Tomb in 2011.

Limor Livnat (center back) at the funeral of her nephew Ben Yosef Livnat at Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, in 2011.
Tomer Appelbaum

The IDF military court in Samaria acquitted on Tuesday the Palestinian policeman accused of murdering an Israeli in Nablus in 2011.

Nawaf Fahd Bani Oudeh was acquitted of the murder of Ben Yosef Livnat at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus in April 2011, and instead was convicted of the much lesser crime of opening fire at a person and obstructing justice.

According to the indictment, “The accused was at the complex [Joseph’s Tomb] in his role part of a patrol of the Palestinian National Security. With him were the commander of the patrol and other members of it Around 5 A.M., the accused noticed Israeli vehicles making their way to the complex and entering it. The accused awakened the commander. In response, the commander fired his weapon in the air and ordered the accused and the members of the patrol to fire their weapons in the air. Shortly thereafter the Israeli vehicles began leaving the compound. The accused and the members of the patrol ceased fire.

"Meanwhile, the commander told the accused and the members of the patrol that he wanted the Israeli cars fired at to cause the death of the occupants. When the accused then left the compound he saw a blue Israeli vehicle he then shot at it from a distance of about seven meters. The shots penetrated the vehicle, struck Ben Yosef in the neck and caused his death.”

The judge, Col. Sharon Rivlin-Ahai, ruled that while the prosecution’s claim that the body of evidence led to only one conclusion, that the shots fired by Oudeh at the car in question are what killed the deceased, she found the defense’s claim reasonable that this had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rivlin-Ahai found Oudeh’s claim that he changed his version of events under pressure from the Shin Bet security service “not baseless.” At first, according to the record, he said he fired at the wheel, but later he changed his story and said he fired at the window. “Only after he [the accused] was repeatedly told that its known he was hiding essential facts, did he say he hit ‘the small triangle near the right rear window,’” the verdict states. However, according to the verdict, the forensic findings show that that particular part of the window was not broken. The judge added that it cannot be ruled out that Oudeh may have changed his version of events to quickly end the interrogation.

Moreover, the judge noted that there was no doubt that until June 11, 2013, Oudeh was not aware that anyone had been hurt in the blue car, “and therefore his version that he did not attribute great importance to the specific details of the shooting is not baseless.”

The judge also described the wounds Livnat sustained, noting that there was doubt that Livnat had been struck by shots fired from outside the vehicle, because “as noted no strikes were found in the seat behind the driver and the source of the injuries is not clear.”

She also noted that the fact that Oudeh and his fellow policeman testified that only Oudeh fired at the car “did not rule out that during that dynamic incident additional shots were not fired at the blue car.”

The facts as stated in the verdict thus led the judge to conclude that it had not been proven beyond any doubt that Oudeh’s shots were the ones that killed Livnat.

Oudeh was arrested in 2013 together with two other Palestinian policemen after serving a sentence in Palestinian prison for his involvement in the incident.

Livnat was the nephew of Limor Livnat, who was a minister at the time in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Netanyahu told Livnat at the time that he would “demand that the Palestinian Authority take severe steps against the miscreants who had carried out this criminal act against Jewish worshipers on their way to prayer.”

According to the IDF investigation, released in May 2011, the Palestinian police fired at Livnat intentionally, “but did not plan a terror attack.” A senior Defense Ministry official said at the time that “because the military investigation determined that the shots fired by the Palestinian police were without cause and indiscriminate, from the perspective of the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser this event justified recognizing Livnat as a terror victim.”

It is believed in light of the offense of which Oudeh was convicted, he will be released for time served, four years. Oudeh’s attorney, Merav Houri, said she welcomed the court’s decision.