Let Court Decide in Police Killing of Israeli Arab

Police Investigation Department's decision to close case of shooting of Israeli Arab by police officers leaves incident open, like a bleeding wound.

Gil Eliahu

The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department decided on Tuesday to close the investigation into the case of Khayr al-Din al-Hamdan of Kafr Kana, who was shot to death by the police last November.

This decision raises new questions about a painful issue – the scornful disregard for the lives of Arabs in Israel. Closing this case is one of several regrettable incidents, the most famous of which is the problematic closure of the investigation into the killing of 13 Arab citizens in the October 2000 events.

Closing the investigation in Hamdan’s case is especially inexplicable in view of the footage released after the event, showing clearly that Hamdan was shot as he was retreating and trying to flee the scene.

The Police Investigation Department said the shooting policeman was the driver of the police car, who thought that his colleague, who was outside the car, could be hurt by Hamdan, who had a knife. But the footage video shows that the shots were fired when the policeman outside the car was standing several meters away from Hamdan, holding a cocked gun.

The fact that the incident started with Hamdan’s attempt to attack the closed police car and the policemen in it with a knife cannot justify the shooting, not when the policemen’s lives were in no danger. According to the footage, contrary to the police’s argument, the shooting was not carried out in keeping with the Israel Police’s rules of engagement. These rules stipulate that first a policeman must warn of his intention to shoot, then he must shoot in the air, later shoot at the legs and only in the end shoot to kill.

The decision to close the case has strengthened the feeling in the Arab community that the police are trigger-happy when it comes to Arab citizens. Hamdan’s father, Abed Arauf Hamdan, told the head of the Police Investigation Department, Uri Carmel: “You killed my son a second time.”

His family said it intends to ask Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan to overturn the decision and even petition the High Court of Justice if it is not revoked.

Perhaps the Police Investigation Department assumed they could not prove the guilt of the shooting officer beyond doubt, so decided to close the case. But even if this is so, the troubling gap between the footage documenting the event and the arguments for closing the case leaves the incident open, like a bleeding wound, which could increase the frustration and tension in the Arab society.

In such explosive issues, the court must decide.