Two Weeks On, Israel Police Yet to Begin Probing Alleged Settler Killing of Palestinian

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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Southern Hebron Hills, three months ago.
Southern Hebron Hills, three months ago.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

Israel Police have failed to open an investigation into the circumstances of the death of a Palestinian who succumbed to bullet wounds last month, amid claims by locals that he was shot by Israeli settlers.

Suspicions over the death of Ismail Tubasi were first reported in a joint investigation conducted by online magazine Siha Mekomit and TV channel Kan 11. Two weeks have passed since the report came out, but police have not started investigating. In response, police said that no complaint had been filed and that they were unfamiliar with the details of the incident. 

Last Thursday, Khaled, Ismail Tubasi’s brother, filed a complaint at the police station in Kiryat Gat. He says he arrived at 9 A.M. and waited outdoors until noon, when he and a family member who had witnessed the incident were allowed in. They waited for another hour and then left. A Yesh Din researcher who accompanied them told Haaretz that an investigator who met them talked to them in a disparaging manner, which is why they left.

Ismail Tubasi, who was shot dead in the West Bank last month. Credit: Courtesy of Tubasi's family.

According to Khaled Tubasi, no police officer had contacted him before he went to the station. The family claims it filed a complaint with the Palestinian police, but Israeli sources said this was never passed on to them. According to the Oslo Accords, when a complaint is made by Palestinians against Israeli citizens, the Palestinian police are supposed to pass it on to their Israeli counterparts. Israeli police can initiate a call to the Palestinian police through a liaison administration.

Tubasi, a resident of the village of al-Rihiya, was shot to death on May 14. According to the investigation by Kan 11, two Palestinian witnesses said that they saw some settlers carrying weapons and an axe, and later heard shots. No one witnessed the shooting itself. Witnesses said that Tubasi’s face was slashed. He had come to the area with other Palestinians in order to extinguish fires started by settlers, according to Palestinian testimonies.

Lior Amichai, CEO of the human rights group Yesh Din, told Haaretz that “everyone should feel shame at the attitude his brother faced at the police station. There’s no doubt that if the victim had been Jewish and the suspects Palestinian, there would already be people under arrest. In the cases where police actually do start investigating settler violence, 91 percent of cases are closed. That’s how police operate in an apartheid regime.”

The police said in response that “in total contrast to what was claimed, last Thursday a man arrived at the station presenting himself as the brother of the deceased. He wanted to file a complaint and was received with courtesy by an investigating officer. The process was explained to him. He decided to leave without leaving his details, after behaving impatiently, without adhering to police requests. The police emphasize that if the family has relevant information, it will be examined when provided.”

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