The investigative report published last week by the London-based Forensic Architecture organization, in conjunction with the Ramallah-based human rights group Al-Haq, should bother every Israeli citizen. The report looked into the circumstances of the killing of Ahmad Erekat, 27, of Abu Dis, by border policemen at the “Container” checkpoint (Wadi Nar) last June.
Israel claimed that Erekat – nephew of the late Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ senior diplomatic negotiator – tried to carry out a car-ramming attack and was shot to death because he threatened the lives of the border policemen at the checkpoint. Forensic Architecture researchers, relying on eyewitness testimonies, videos from the scene and the opinion of a forensic expert from the United States, came to the conclusion that this was an “extrajudicial execution,” as the report was titled (and as reported by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac on Friday).
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The report cast doubt regarding Erekat’s intent, noting he was driving at 15 kilometers an hour when he hit a border policewoman. The policewoman was lightly injured and got up immediately. The forensic expert noted that Erekat did not accelerate his vehicle at any point, and may have even tried to brake. The expert noted that if he had wanted to harm the border policemen, he would have accelerated so he could hit them with greater force.
What happened afterward was even worse. Erekat immediately got out of his car, raised his arms and moved backward. He was not armed. The border policemen claim that he was trying to get close to them. Within two seconds the policemen shot him in the upper body six times, even though he didn’t pose any risk.
According to the report, Erekat was denied immediate medical help that might have saved his life. During the first moments after the shooting he is seen moving his hands. The police claim he was examined, but according to the report’s findings, a Palestinian ambulance was blocked from approaching, and an Israeli ambulance crew only treated the policewoman. Erekat’s body remained on the road for a lengthy period, undressed for part of the time. Policemen and soldiers are seen smoking and walking near the body in what was described as disrespect for the dead.
Moreover, to this day, eight months after the incident, Israel hasn’t returned his body to his family due to the trade of bodies it is trying to arrange with Hamas in Gaza.
Erekat was not the only senseless Palestinian victim in recent months, but for the first time an international organization thoroughly investigated the circumstances of his death, using sophisticated means. One might expect that the Israel Police would conduct a similar investigation, but of course that hasn’t happened, nor will it.
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The government must now give the family back the body of its son, who was killed on the day of his sister’s wedding.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.