Israel: Private Contractors, Not Police, Killed Palestinian Siblings at Jerusalem Checkpoint

An initial investigation reveals that a police officer stationed at the site of an attempted knife attack at Qalandiyah fired warning shots, but that fatal shooting was carried out by guards who stood nearby.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, shot after attempted stabbing at Qalandia checkpoint in West Bank. April 28, 2016
Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, shot after attempted stabbing at Qalandia checkpoint in West Bank. April 28, 2016Credit: Reuters, Mohamad Torokman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

An initial investigation into an attempted knife attack by Palestinian siblings who were then shot dead in north Jerusalem last week revealed that the shooting was carried out by civilian security guards and not police forces.

Since police weren't the ones who fatally shot Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and her brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, no probe was opened by Justice Ministry's police investigation unit into the officers involved.

The investigation into the incident revealed that a police officer who was stationed at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in north Jerusalem last Wednesday carried out a the proper arrest procedure, and as part of it fired shots in the air, but that the shooting at the siblings, one of which allegedly threw a knife at officers, was carried out by guards who stood nearby.

Civilian security guards contracted by the Defense Ministry are regularly stationed alongside police officers, Border Police and IDF soldiers in all major checkpoints between Israel and the Palestinian territories. The guards usually don’t come in contact with the Palestinians moving through the checkpoints, but rather stand behind concrete shelters and cover the police officers and soldiers.

According to the police, Wednesday’s incident at the Qalandiyah checkpoint began when the police noticed Abu Ismayil and Tahah walking toward to crossing point for vehicles where pedestrians are not allowed. Abu Ismayil continued walking with her hand in her back, and Tahah did so with his hand behind his back.

Ignoring orders to stop, when they were very close to the security barricade before the checkpoint, police said Abu Ismayil pulled a knife and threw it at a policeman, who was uninjured. Police and security guards then opened fire and killed them both. The police released photos of the three knives, the one Abu Ismayil threw and the two found on her brother’s body, one of which was a switchblade.

According to the police, the two were acting suspiciously and did not heed the police calls to sto. According to Palestinian witnesses, however, the siblings were far away from the police, were not a threat, and did not understand the calls for them in Hebrew to stop.

The father of the Palestinian siblings said that he gave his testimony at the police station at the checkpoint where the shooting took place. On Sunday, he said that he received summons from the Shin Bet. The siblings' bodies are still being held by Israel.

The police are refusing to make public the video showing the attempted knife attack. The Jerusalem Police said the video, if there was one, could not be made public because the incident was under investigation. However Haaretz checked and found that in a number of cases in the past the Police Spokesman’s Office had itself made public videos of similar incidences, even adding captions to explain what was happening and justifying the police actions.

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