Israel Reverses Claim That Palestinian Shot Dead at Roadblock Was Attempting Attack

Military originally said Muhammed Ali el-Abassi drove through through a roadblock ■ Palestinian witness says gunfire began without warning

Focus checkpoint near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, 2014
Emil Salman

A Palestinian teen from East Jerusalem who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank Thursday did not drive through a roadblock and was not trying to commit an attack, the military said Friday, reversing its initial account.

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Muhammed Ali el-Abassi

Palestinian media outlets identified the dead youth as 17-year-old Mohammed Ali el-Abassi. 

The incident took place near the West Bank town of Beitin, not far from the checkpoint between Ramallah and the settlement of Beit El, north of Jerusalem.

Following an initial inquiry, the army said soldiers ordered the driver to stop, but he made a U-turn and tried to flee. The soldiers fired warning shots in the air, and the car sped away toward a nearby checkpoint.

The soldiers at the checkpoint were alerted and were told that the vehicle might contain suspects from an attempted shooting earlier Thursday near the settlement of Ofra.

When the car approached the checkpoint, the soldiers shouted at the driver to stop and fired warning shots into the air. He did not stop, and the soldiers opened fire before the vehicle reached the checkpoint. At least one other person was wounded by the gunfire.

After the incident, the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division reiterated the regulations on such incidents with brigade commanders in the region. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said no new regulations were issued, but it “was necessary to update brigade commanders on the standard procedures.”

One of the passengers in the car told Haaretz that he, Abassi and two others were on their way to Nablus when they encountered an Israel Police checkpoint. They were told by the officers to take a bypass road near Beit El. According to one of the passengers, Mohammed, they got lost and found themselves in the settlement.

Mohammed said they were then surrounded by armed Israeli troops and settlers, who pointed their guns at them. Afraid, they drove on, and were fired at, Mohammed said. Abassi was shot in the back; the three others suffered light bruises.

Security forces questioned Mohammed and his friends, who said they had simply entered the settlement by mistake.

The family's obituary said their son was murdered in cold blood and for no reason. They told Haaretz his body was transferred to Abu Kabir, and that they had requested it be transferred promptly for burial.