Israeli Cops Filmed Shooting Prone Palestinian Attacker in Jerusalem Won't Be Charged

Probe finds Border Policemen did not commit criminal offense in fatal February shooting at Damascus Gate.

Screen-grab from Al Jazeera video of Damascus Gate assailant being shot dead in Jerusalem's Old City
Video / Al Jazeera

The Justice Ministry Police Investigation Unit has decided to close the file against Border Policemen caught on film while repeatedly shooting at a Palestinian attacker outside Jerusalem's Old City after he had fallen to the ground.

A crew from the Al-Jazeera television network filmed the incident, which took place on February 19 at Damascus Gate, in which Mohammed Abu Khalaf is first seen fleeing after stabbing two Border Policemen, and then being shot by several of them until he collapsed. The police continued to fire at him for a few seconds at that point.

Two Border Policemen were slightly wounded by Khalaf, and a 50-year-old Palestinian woman was slightly wounded by the police. Khalaf died as a result of the incident.

Video from Al Jazeera of Damascus Gate assailant being shot dead in Jerusalem's Old City Al Jazeera

In April, Attorney Aram Mahameed of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights appealed to the Justice Ministry unit (Mahash, according to its Hebrew acronym) on behalf of Khalaf's parents, and demanded an investigation.

“If the police wanted to 'neutralize' the deceased due to a reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense, they could have adopted alternative means to make an arrest or eliminate danger, if it existed,” wrote Hameed in his appeal. “In exceptional cases they could shoot at the lower extremities in order to prevent the suspect from taking action. It should be emphasized once again that there was definitely no reason for the use of lethal force as was the case.”

The Police Investigation Unit responded in June, saying that “the materials gathered indicate that the Border Policeman were displaying an instinctive operational response to a sudden assault by a man armed with a knife, who had stabbed one of their friends in the head, and stabbed another policeman who had come to his assistance in the hand.”

Senior police prosecutor Leora Nahon noted in that letter: “In the unusual situation that led to the stormy incident, and in light of the strong and concrete subjective feeling of threat, which is likely to lead to an overreaction, we did not find in the evidentiary material or the testimony a reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense on the part of any of the policemen present in the area.”

The unit did not recommend bringing the Border Policemen involved in the incident to a disciplinary hearing and decided that it was enough to transfer the evidentiary materials to the police for the purpose of carrying out its own operational inquiry and drawing conclusions.

Abu Khalaf, 20, from Kafr Aqab north of Jerusalem, arrived at the Damascus Gate on the Friday in question, and was checked by a Border Police unit stationed there. He is thought to have armed himself with a knife inside the Old City, returning to the gate in order to attack the policemen.

On his return he grabbed the knife, ran toward one of the policemen and stabbed him in the head.

“I managed to push him away and moved aside so that the fighters could shoot him,” the policeman recalled later.

Another officer on hand struggled with Abu Khalaf and was wounded in the hand. At that point the police managed to fire at him and he fell.