Israel covered up the killing of Palestinian teacher Yacoub Abu Al-Qiyan in Umm Al-Hiran in 2017, a new report has revealed.
The incident took place in January 2017 during the forcible evacuation of Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village located just outside Beersheba in the Negev desert, southern Israel. Several homes in Umm Al-Hiran – like many villages designated "unrecognised" by Israel – had been slated for demolition, one of which belonged to Musa Hussein Abu Al-Qiyan, the elderly father of 47-year-old teacher Yacoub.
During the pre-dawn demolition raid, Israel claimed that Yacoub had tried to ram his car into Israeli policemen, killing one of them. The incident was subsequently labelled as a Daesh-inspired "terror attack", to which the Israel Police responded in "self-defence". Abu Al-Qiyan was shot dead at the scene.
However, an exclusive report by Haaretz today revealed that one police officer – known only as S. – admitted a matter of hours after the incident that he did not believe his life or the lives of his colleagues were in danger as a result of Al-Qiyan's driving. This remark, the Israeli daily pointed out, was made to a Shin Bet coordinator known as "Taher" and contradicted his testimony later given to investigators from a unit of Israel's Justice Ministry which probes police misconduct.
"S. also told the Shin Bet officer that he had aimed at the center of [Abu Al-Qiyan's] vehicle and not only at the tires – again, contradicting three testimonies he gave to the Justice Ministry investigators."
The report continues: "Despite changing his statement and the Justice Ministry's demand that S. be investigated on suspicion of negligent homicide, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided to close the case and not investigate any of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting."
Haaretz notes that Nitzan decided to close the case chiefly as a result of pressure from then-Police Commissioner, Roni Alsheich, who subjected Nitzan to "continued insistence that the incident be framed as an intentional vehicle-ramming".
These revelations come just a day after a separate investigation by London-based research centre Forensic Architecture confirmed that, in the same pre-dawn raid, Israeli police shot Arab-Israeli Knesset Member (MK) Ayman Odeh.
Odeh had been at Umm Al-Hiran to protest against the demolition, but was shot by Israeli police in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets just moments after Abu Al-Qiyan was killed. The police, however, claimed that Odeh had been hit by stones thrown by protesters.
Footage of the incident which emerged later in 2017 showed the police's brutality against Odeh, including him being shoved by officers and sprayed in the face with pepper spray. Responding to the footage, the MK stressed that "the police and government's lies and incitement continue to be exposed. Everything we claimed from the get go has turned out to be true".
As +972 Magazine pointed out, the Forensic Architecture investigation, therefore "supports the version of the events as described by MK Odeh and additional activists who were also shot by sponge-tipped bullets". The report also suggests "the Police Internal Investigations Department withheld crucial information from the attorneys representing the Abu Al-Qi'an [Al-Qiyan] family."