Israel Closes Case on Guards Who Killed Palestinian Siblings at Checkpoint

The two young Palestinians were shot dead after the sister threw a knife at guards at the Qalandiyah crossing in the West Bank.

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Israeli security forces stand guard at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, April 27, 2016.
Israeli security forces stand guard at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, April 27, 2016.Credit: AFP
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Jerusalem prosecutors have closed the files of the two civilian security guards who shot and killed a brother and sister at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in April, saying there was not enough evidence they had acted improperly.

According to people who saw footage of the incident, 23-year-old Maram Abu Ismayil threw a knife at the guards but missed.

Her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim Tahah tried to pull her back but the two guards opened fire. The investigation of the event was conducted under a gag order that was partially lifted this month at Haaretz’s request.

The sources said Abu Ismayil approached the checkpoint with her hand inside her bag and pulled out a kitchen knife when she was about 20 meters (66 feet) from the guards. Tahah grabbed her from behind after she threw the knife and seemed to be trying to move her away. The guards then opened fire.

According to the sources, at no point did Tahah pull out a knife. But after his death, knives were found in his pocket; his family said that one of them, a pocket knife, he carried all the time.

The prosecutors considered the case for a month. The police had transferred the file without a recommendation to prosecute – which is unusual.

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

According to the prosecutors, the two Palestinians approached the checkpoint even though the security forces warned them. Also, Abu Ismayil shouted “Allah Akhbar” and her brother cursed the guards. A policeman in the area fired in the air.

The two had begun to withdraw – with Ibrahim holding Maram’s hand before she pulled out the knife. Once she threw it, the guards opened fire.

The prosecutors also said that while walking toward the checkpoint Tahah had one hand in his pocket while holding on to his sister with his other hand. This could arouse a reasonable suspicion that Tahah sought to attack the security forces, the prosecutors said.

“From the angle of the video that documents the incident, one can see Ibrahim’s attempt to pull Maram back before she threw the knife, but at the same time we have to take into account that the viewing direction of the policeman and the guards who were at the site differs from the angle of the film,” the prosecutors said in a statement.

“In addition, in a search of Ibrahim’s body, additional knives were found, one of them identical to the knife that Maram pulled out and threw. This fact is likely to indicate Ibrahim’s motive for arriving at that spot.”

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