Suspicions are being investigated that a shooting at the Qalandiyah West Bank checkpoint north of Jerusalem in which a 23-year-old Palestinian woman, Maram Abu Ismail, and her 16-year-old brother, Ibrahim Taha, were killed last week was carried out in violation of regulations.
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On Thursday evening, Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Joya Skappa-Shapiro imposed a gag order on the details of the investigation, including the names of the suspects in the shooting "to preserve the propriety of the investigation and to prevent harm to public safety," as the judge described it.
On Sunday, the Justice Ministry department in charge of investigating police conduct reported that a preliminary investigation indicated that the fatal shots that hit the sister and brother were fired by private security guards hired by the Public Security Ministry and were not killed by police. It was also found that a policeman who was standing nearby at the checkpoint followed standard arrest procedure in these circumstances by firing into the air.
The police have refused to release video footage of the incident, claiming that it is investigative material. Police said the sister and brother aroused suspicions and failed to heed calls for them to stop. The sister allegedly pulled a knife and was shot, as was her brother, who was walking behind her. Two knives were later said to have been found on his body.
A Palestinian witness provided a different account, however, claiming that the pair never posed a threat, that they were far from the police and that they didn't understand orders directed at them in Hebrew.
Guards hired from private security firms by the Public Security Ministry are routinely assigned to checkpoints leading from the West Bank into Israel, working alongside police, border police and army troops. Most of the private guards don't come in contact with the Palestinian population at the checkpoints. They are generally stationed behind concrete positions and are there to protect the police and army personnel.