Questions remain in Israel shooting

Details unclear week after Palestinian father's killing by Israeli police in East Jerusalem.

    Jilani, pictured here with his wife and youngest daughter, was shot dead by Israeli police on June 11 in East Jerusalem while returning from Friday prayers [Picture from Mondoweiss]

    A week after a Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli policein East Jerusalem, details of the circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear.

    With most media focused on the global outrage following Israel's deadly assault on a Gaza aid flotilla, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, the death of 41-year-old Ziad Jilani has gone relatively unnoticed.

    Jilani, a father of three, was shot dead while returning from Friday prayers on June 11, in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi Joz, after what police said was an attempt by Jilani to ram his car into two officers.

    A friend of his family told Al Jazeera that Jilani was a "very family-oriented man, a loving husband and a devoted father" to his three daughters.

    "His wife told me that before her husband left the house that morning, they had discussed taking the kids out someplace fun that afternoon. This was no premeditated attack," she said.

    'Intent to kill'

    Israeli officialssaid that Jilani's car hit two Israeli policemen, with an apparent intent to kill, before driving a short distance and proceeding to flee the scene on foot.

    They said that the police officers called on the suspect to stop, and opened fire and killed him once it was clear that he had ignored their instructions.

    Ziad, holder of a US "green card", was married to Moira, an American citizen who was born in Barbados and raised in Texas. They apparently moved to Jerusalem to be near his family.

    The week following his death saw many blogs written, asking why a father of three daughters would try to kill Israeli soldiers when returning from Friday prayers.

    Witnesses quoted in various Arab and Israeli media gave a very different account to the events of that tragic afternoon.

    The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that several minutes before the incident, Israeli police were seen riding horses towards the Wadi Joz industrial area.

    Earlier in the day, Israeli army radio raised alert levels in East Jerusalem in anticipation of protests that they expected following Israel's May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.

    Stones or bullets?

    Jilani was driving home from prayers, travelling in tightly packed, slow-moving traffic with no oncoming vehicles.

    A number of other officers were deployed around the area, and several started making their way towards Jerusalem's Old City.

    Two eyewitnesses told Haaretz that the stones were hurled at the officers, one of which struck Jilani's car.

    They said that is when his car swerved, veering from its lane and striking the group of policemen.

    Jilani was described as a family oriented 'loving husband and father' [Associated Press]

    Several other witnesses said that the windshield of Jilani's car had been shattered, but they were not sure if the damage had been caused by a bullet or a stone.

    Jilani then reportedly turned his car into a dead-end alley and police continued pursuing his vehicle while shooting.

    The Maan News agencyreported that the Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) said that an initial shot knocked Jilani to the floor, after which the police "fired shots in the face and abdomen at close range".

    It quoted Sad Hamed al-Silwadi, the father of a child also injured during the shooting, who said that his car was parked nearby and that he saw Jilani get out of his vehicle when he was first shot at by Israeli forces.

    Al-Silwadi said that he rushed his five-year-old child to the hospital after she was wounded with a rubber-coated-bullet wound to the neck and head.

    Another witness, Ahmad Qutteneh, told JCSER that he saw Jilani running from Israeli soldiers who were approaching him and firing at close range.

    "Then I saw one of them come close to him and shoot him in the face and body," Qutteneh said.

    Consistent reports

    The Maan News agency is a Palestinian based wire service, but their reports are consistent with some in the Israeli press.

    Haaretzquoted a witness as saying that Jilani "got out of the car, and they came after him".

    "Not just one of them shot, but many of them, and then they started yelling in Hebrew for people to go back into their homes," the witness said.

    Ten metres separated the parked car and the spot where Jilani fell to the ground.

    The witness said that Jilani was lying on his stomach with several officers gathered around him, and then one of the policemen kicked him in the head.

    Another witness said that she saw an officer point his rifle extremely close to Jilani's head, and then she heard a shot ring out.

    Seeking justice

    Shari Lobo, Moira's sister, told Al Jazeera that the family hoped that all the witnesses would be interviewed and the correct information gathered in a proper investigation.

    "I hope that more people question what happened so that Ziad did not die in vain," she said.

    Shumel Ben-Ruby, a Jerusalem police spokesman, said that the Israeli police shot Jilani "after he fled on foot and did not heed warning shots".

    Whether Jilani was running away or not, is not a question his widow and three daughters care much about.

    They are more interested in clearing his name and seeking justice - or at least clear answers - for his death.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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