Thousands Attend Funeral of Bedouin Man Shot by Police During Umm al-Hiran Clashes

Yakub Musa al-Kiyan, the driver of the truck that police claim deliberately ran over and killed policeman Erez Levy, is laid to rest.

FILE PHOTO - The funeral of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, January 24, 2017.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Thousands of people on Tuesday attended the funeral of Yakub Musa al-Kiyan, the driver of the truck that police claim deliberately ran over and killed policeman Erez Levy in Umm al-Hiran last week. Local residents reported that officers prevented them from reaching al-Kiyan's funeral, but the police denied claims. 

Al-Kiyan’s funeral was made possible on Monday after the High Court of Justice accepted a petition made by The Adalah Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, on behalf of the family. The court determined that the funeral should last two hours during daylight, without limiting the number of participants. The judges also ruled that the funeral should proceed from Umm al-Hiran to the Bedouin town of Hura, instructing police to close Route 31 between Be'er Sheva and Arad for short durations, if needed.

The police said on Tuesday morning that they were preparing for the funeral procession in order to direct traffic after blocking some roads and in order to prevent disturbances and violations of public security. Starting at 11 A.M., the Omer interchange, the Shoket interchange, the Eshkolot traffic circle, the Shoket intersection, Tel Arad, Yatit intersection and highway 316 from the forester’s house to the linkage to highway 31 were all closed to traffic. They were expected to reopen at 2 P.M.

Several local residents said that the police had put up many roadblocks and were preventing them from reaching the funeral. Israeli Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh (Joint List) called on the police to abide by the court ruling and allow the public to come and console the bereaved family and pay their last respects to al-Kiyan. “I call on the police to act responsibly and remember that we are citizens of this state and are entitled, at least formally, to enjoy our rights. Let the funeral take place as planned and stop tormenting the family,” he said.

The police denied claims made by residents that they prevented them from attending the funeral. “The police are allowing free passage at intersections in which roadblocks were put up, enabling the arrival of anyone coming to the funeral of the assailant in the car-ramming incident, in contrast to claims made by different people that we are deliberately delaying the public from attending.”

In an announcement made by the police before the funeral, it stressed that their main consideration was “the public’s safety, while abiding completely with the court decision from last night. However, we will not allow any damage to state symbols or to public safety, with all that this implies. The police will deal harshly with people who do so and will bring the full force of the law to bear upon them, whether violations occur before, during or after the funeral procession.”

Justices Yitzhak Amit and Uri Shoham, in a majority decision, ruled in favor of the family, with Justice Noam Sohlberg opposing. Justice Amit related to police fears of disturbances during the funeral. “The victim’s family belong to the Bedouin community, whose members are law-abiding Israeli citizens, some of whom are part of our security forces. There has not been a single voice there praising the car-ramming death of the policeman – the family and the Bedouin community condemn such phenomena unanimously. This, in my mind, blunts the concerns voiced by police.”

Al-Kiyan was killed during disturbances which broke out in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran last week, when large police forces arrived to secure home demolitions. The Jewish community of Hiran is slated to be built on the ruins of Umm al-Hiran. During the disturbances, al-Kiyan ran over two policemen, killing one of them, Erez Levy. A film shot at the scene and the testimony of witnesses raised the possibility that al-Kiyan did not intend to run over the policemen but that he lost control of his car. In its response to the petition, the state argued that this was a terror attack.

Over the weekend, Channel 10 reported that al-Kiyan had been hit by two bullets, one to his right leg and one to his chest. According to the report, preliminary results from the pathology report submitted to police investigators showed that one bullet hit his knee, possibly before the vehicle sped up. The second bullet hit an artery in his chest, leading to internal bleeding, which lasted for 20-30 minutes, leading to his death from loss of blood. The report claimed that the forensic institute’s pathologists said that had al-Kiyan received first aid at the scene and had he been transferred to a hospital, his life could have been saved.