What happened at the Qalandiyah checkpoint last Wednesday can’t stay in Qalandiyah. The killing of Maram Abu Ismail, a 23-year-old mother of two small children, and her brother Ibrahim Taha, 16, who, according to the Justice Ministry department for the investigation of police officers, were shot by security guards at the checkpoint, raises questions and serious suspicions.
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The refusal of the police to release video footage from the security cameras at the scene – which they should have done immediately to remove any doubts – only increases the fear that a crime was committed at the north Jerusalem checkpoint.
The police claim – that the video is needed for the investigation and cannot be released – contradicts their behavior in similar instances in the past, when police spokesmen hastened to release security camera footage when it served police purposes. The public has the right to know why and how the siblings were killed, and if it was indeed an unavoidable killing of assailants who threatened the lives of policemen and security guards at the checkpoint.
The two Palestinians approached the Qalandiyah checkpoint on foot, in the lane designated for vehicles. The two raised the suspicion of policemen, who called on them to stop. According to police, at a certain point Abu Ismail took a knife out of her bag and thrust it toward the policemen. According to the Justice Ministry department, a policeman standing at the checkpoint then followed arrest procedures by firing in the air, but the shots that killed the siblings were fired by security guards standing nearby. The police argue that two more knives were found on the siblings’ bodies.
Palestinian eyewitnesses describe a decidedly different sequence of events. They say that a policeman or security guard fired at the woman from a distance of some 20 meters (65 feet), proof that she was no danger to anyone. According to this testimony, the brother tried to pull his sister back to save her, and either police or security guards then shot and killed him as well. If these testimonies are correct, there was no need to kill the two siblings. Witnesses also said Palestinian medical personnel were not permitted to approach the two.
The doubts and suspicions can only be dispelled by the footage from the checkpoint’s security cameras. That’s why the police must release it immediately. If the double killing was indeed necessitated by the circumstances, the police must prove this quickly. If this was another case of unnecessary execution, those responsible must be prosecuted.
The case of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot a subdued and wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron in March, proved how important exposing the truth through video documentation can be. The details of this new incident cannot be hidden on the pretext of an investigation, which may take time. The truth about what happened at Qalandiyah must be disclosed immediately.