Rahat Resident Killed by Israel Border Police Laid to Rest, Autopsy May Contradict Officer's Claims

The border police officer who shot al-Harbad, a father of five, twice from behind has been suspended from duty

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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The funeral of Sanad Salem al-Harbad in Rahat, Israel, Wednesday.
The funeral of Sanad Salem al-Harbad in Rahat, Israel, Wednesday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Sanad Salem al-Harbad of Rahat, who was shot to death Tuesday by an undercover Border Police officer, was killed by two bullets that hit him from behind, one of them in the back, said sources familiar with the findings of the Police Investigations Unit's probe.

Magen David Adom paramedics said al-Harbad, 27, was struck by two bullets, one in the upper part of the back and another in the buttocks, indicating that he was facing the opposite direction of the police officer when he was shot.

This could contradict the officer’s version of events, as he claimed in questioning that he had shot at al-Harbad after the suspect pointed a gun at him, and that he fired again – at his upper body – after al-Harbad had fallen on the ground and again pointed a gun at him.

According to the report, al-Harbad was brought by the officers to the local police station, where Magen David Adom crews began treating him to no avail. Yesterday, al-Harbad’s body underwent an autopsy at the Abu Kabir Forensic Medicine Institute, but results are expected only in the next few days.

The officer had said that two people approached him threateningly, one of whom he said pointed a gun at him from about six meters away. While it appears now that the victim was shot with his back to the policeman – it is possible that when the officer initially opened fire, he missed, leading al-Harbad to turn his back to him.

The findings may lead to further questioning of the undercover agent, who was questioned Tuesday for the first time at the Police Investigations Unit office, after which he was suspended from duty for seven days and had his service weapon taken from him.

On Wednesday, al-Harbat, a father of four, was laid to rest at a funeral attended by some 500 people. Following an agreement with Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu Sahiban, police were absent from the funeral procession.

The funeral was peaceful apart from when the procession passed a police vehicle parked at a gas station, prompting children to throw stones at it. The police car left the scene and quiet was quickly restored.

Sheikh Hamad Abu Daabas, who until recently served as head of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement, spoke at the cemetery, criticizing the police action that resulting al-Harbad's death.

According to Abu Daabas, “The police are supposed to protect us and collect illegal weapons, but when it comes to Arabs, they are trigger-happy. The undercover agents who came yesterday, came ready to kill.”

However, he added, “The Arab population must understand that the main cause of the bloodshed is with us. We are smart and should stop this between ourselves. I call upon the youngsters to refrain from feuds and keep the peace.” He ended his comments with a call upon those present to return to their homes and "refrain from violence and rioting.”

The shooting incident occurred during a Shin Bet arrest of two suspects. According to the security service, one of them was wanted for staying in Israel without permits and the other for security-related offenses. There were no police or Shin Ben casualties reported.

The police issued a statement after the incident, saying the suspect “put the forces’ lives at risk,” and therefore they were forced to “neutralize” him.

Although the officers were undercover, they identified themselves as police. It wasn’t immediately clear, however, at what point they did so.

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