The Israel Police failed to review a plethora of security footage covering an area in the West Bank town of Qusra where a 19-year-old Palestinian said he was shot when he stepped onto the balcony of his home.
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The security cameras, which belong to the nearby settlement of Migdalim, have yet to be checked. The police only passed the complaint to the military criminal investigation division after Haaretz made an inquiry about the incident, raising suspicions that Israeli soldiers are responsible for the shooting.
The incident occurred on the evening of November 30 last year during a confrontation that involved soldiers, Palestinians and settlers. That morning, dozens of Palestinians had attacked a group of settlers, mostly children, who were hiking near the town. One of the parents chaperoning the group opened fire, killing 48-year-old Mahmoud Zael Oudeh. Violent demonstrations erupted in Qusra following his death as Palestinians threw stones and set tires alight.
The complainant, Amir Oudeh, lives on the edge of Qusra, less than a hundred meters from the junction leading to Migdalim. His father Mutasem said that the junction was the center of demonstrations that evening. Israeli security forces were using crowd dispersal means, so the family stayed indoors.
At around 6:30 P.M., Amir Oudeh went onto the family’s balcony, which is located about 10 meters south of the junction. His relatives remained inside. They say that the town entrance was quieter at this point. “There were children throwing stones, and we were inside the house, walking between the rooms. We couldn’t leave,” he said. Shortly after Oudeh walked onto the balcony, a bullet was fired at him, he recalled. “I have no idea who fired, the army or settlers, because they were both in the junction,” he said.
The bullet hit him in the left leg, just above the knee, and exited through the other side. The bullet itself was never found, but it shattered the upper part of his leg. The wound is not characteristic of rubber- or sponge-coated bullets, which are fired by the army to disperse demonstrations, but rather appears to be made by live fire. There were no additional reports of Palestinians being wounded by live fire that day.
Mutasem Oudeh took his injured son to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where he was operated on and hospitalized for six days. He was released with an iron splint on his leg and crutches, and was bedridden for several weeks. Mutasem Oudeh has a work permit in Israel while his son worked legally in Migdalim, doing home improvements. Amir Oudeh was only able to walk last week, and he has yet to return to work.
On December 4, a number of days after Amir Oudeh’s hospitalization, his father went to the police station in Ariel and filed a complaint regarding the shooting. He explained that the shooting came from the road leading to Migdalim and recounted the incident. The police registered his complaint and opened an investigation. However, no action was taken on the file for two months.
The junction, which cuts between Migdalim and Qusra, is full of cameras. One of the cameras at the junction points directly at the Oudeh home. There are many other cameras belonging to the settlement in the area. Still, sources well-versed with the details of the file told Haaretz that the police took no investigative steps regarding the shooting. Moreover, the police have neither questioned Amir Oudeh nor called any witnesses. Mutasem Oudeh said that no one has contacted them since they filed the complaint.
In response to a Haaretz inquiry, the police in the Judea and Samaria District said there is a suspicion that soldiers shot at Oudeh and the complaint has therefore been passed onto the military criminal investigation division.
“They have cameras, but no one checked them out,” said Mutasem. “They didn’t even ask anything, nothing.” He added that because the bullet has not been found, it is not clear whether the shot came from a rifle or pistol. “The bullet entered one side and came out the other,” he said. “We don’t know where it is.”
A Judea and Samaria District official said that when Mutasem Oudeh filed the complaint, he said that soldiers had fired at the son, so the complaint was immediately transferred to the military criminal investigation division. He said the police did not have the authority to investigate the complaint from the moment the father mentioned the soldiers. However, Oudeh denies accusing the soldiers, and confirmed that he doesn’t know who shot his son. Despite the statement by the police official, the military criminal investigation division only received the complaint after Haaretz’s inquiry into the matter.
An Israeli army spokesperson stated that “The army recently received a complaint that had been submitted to the Israel Police, in which it is claimed that there was a shooting on November 30, 2017, that injured a village resident who claimed to be residing at home. The complaint is being looked into.”