Hebron Cameraman Recounts Dramatic 'Execution' of Wounded Palestinian Assailant

'I never expected to see an execution with my own eyes,' says Emad Abu-Shamsiyah of the incident that aroused widespread condemnation on Thursday.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli soldier shoots subdued Palestinian attacker in Hebron.
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The Hebron resident who filmed a subdued Palestinian attacker being fatally shot in the head by an Israeli soldier – an incident that aroused widespread condemnation, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – has spoken to Haaretz about Thursday’s incident, saying he never expected to see an execution with his own eyes.

Al-Fatah Ashraf, 21, was one of two Palestinians who allegedly stabbed an Israel Defense Forces soldier in Hebron on Thursday morning before being wounded and incapacitated by soldiers. The video footage, recorded by Emad Abu-Shamsiyah, then shows Ashraf being shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as he lies on the ground, immobilized.

Abu-Shamsiyah, from the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron, was questioned by the IDF after the video footage was released. He tells Haaretz he filmed the event from his neighbor’s roof after soldiers kept him away from the immediate vicinity.

Immediately after hearing the first shots, Abu-Shamsiyah recalls, he, his wife Faiza and their 17-year-old daughter went out into the street to see what had happened. A minute later, he says, settlers arrived. He saw no other Palestinians on the street. The soldiers then asked him to keep his distance while aiming their weapons at him and his family. His wife and daughter remained near the door to their home and watched from there, while Abu-Shamsiyah went up onto his neighbor’s roof to film the incident. He saw a man lying motionless on the ground with blood running down his face. A second person lying on the street showed signs of life and was moving, recounts Abu-Shamsiyah.

After that, he says he saw a “not tall” soldier approach and shoot Ashraf – the man who had been showing signs of life – in the head.

“My wife and I are still in shock from what we saw,” he says. Even though Palestinians have claimed many times over the past six months that dozens of young people suspected of stabbing Israeli soldiers and civilians have been killed unjustifiably, Abu-Shamsiyah says he “never expected to see an execution with my own eyes.”

Abu-Shamsiyah is an activist in a local Palestinian human rights group in Hebron. He has also previously volunteered as a photographer for the human rights organization B’Tselem, and decided to give the footage to the Israeli nonprofit, knowing it would be able to distribute it quickly and draw more attention to the video.

B’Tselem also provided the IDF with Abu-Shamsiyah’s contact details, in order for them to gather evidence from him. Abu-Shamsiyah refused a request to come to the IDF base in Gush Etzion, and instead met with investigators in the IDF Civil Administration building in southern Hebron.

For five months, the IDF has forbidden Palestinians who do not live in Tel Rumeida from entering the neighborhood. Also, Palestinian vehicles are not allowed in any part of the old city in Hebron where settlers live.

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