West Bank shooting: ‘Israel does whatever it wants’
Emad Abu Shamsiyeh, who filmed an Israeli soldier shooting an injured Palestinian, says he is ready to testify.
Occupied West Bank – Emad Abu Shamsiyeh received the first death threat on March 24.
It came hours after Abu Shamsiyeh, an activist with the Human Rights Defenders NGO, filmed what appeared to be the extrajudicial execution of Abed al-Fattah al Sharif, a young Palestinian man, by an Israeli soldier in Hebron.
“I got a phone call from a blocked number. In heavily accented Arabic, the caller said I would regret publishing the video and that my family would be burned alive,” he said.
“The next day, a group of settlers gathered outside my house and began hurling rocks at the house, while I was inside with my family.”
In the days that followed, physical and verbal attacks against his family continued, while his picture was posted on a number of Israeli right-wing websites, calling for his death, he told Al Jazeera.
READ MORE: How impunity defines Israel and victimises Palestinians
On March 24, Abu Shamsiyeh heard gunshots close to his home in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood. He grabbed his video camera, left his home and began to film the scene in the street.
“There were large numbers of police and two young men bleeding in the street, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi and Abed al-Fattah al Sharif,” he recalled. “The latter was still moving when I started recording.”
I didn't film anything that didn't happen. If I was asked to testify then I will go no matter what happens.
Israeli soldiers told Abu Shamsiyeh to move away, so he moved to a rooftop and hit record again. In the footage that he took next, an Israeli soldier points his weapon at Sharif, who is lying wounded and barely moving, before firing a single bullet into his head from close range.
The killing took place after the two Palestinian men allegedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier. The video footage shows the shooting taking place in the presence of a group of Israeli soldiers, settlers and medical personnel who are treating a soldier.
They pay no attention to the wounded al-Sharif and barely show any reaction in the aftermath of the shooting.
The video was shared with human rights groups and media outlets, which eventually led to the soldier, whose name is under a gag order, being arrested.
The shooting was condemned by senior Israeli political figures, including the defence minister Moshe Yaalon. However, Israeli public opinion broadly swung behind the soldier’s actions, while right-wing members of the Knesset have supported him.
Meanwhile, a number of right-wing Israeli websites have targeted Abu Shamsiyeh, he told Al Jazeera. One such post read: “Wanted” in bold, red English letters above a picture of Abu Shamsiyeh.
At the bottom, in Hebrew, it read: “Call for Emad Abu Shamsiyeh. I am a video activist and I took your soldier”.
Abu Shamsiyeh says his family has been living in constant fear.
“My children are nervous and we are expecting the worst to happen at any minute,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that his children have been taking alternative routes to school in order to avoid the Israeli checkpoints, or even missing classes altogether.
READ MORE: Israel’s gun policy: A licence to kill Palestinians
When the soldier appeared at a court hearing on March 29, the military judge Lieutenant-Colonel Ronen Shor, said there was “reasonable doubt” as to the circumstances of the shooting and the video evidence was “inconclusive”. He ruled that the soldier could be held in detention until March 31.
Al-Sharif’s father Yusri described his son’s killing as a “horrific crime” and said that he was not hopeful that the family would receive justice.
“I want the killer to be prosecuted. I want the ambulance workers and the soldiers to be held accountable for what they did,” he told Al Jazeera. “They should be tried so that something similar won’t happen again. We do not know if they will try the killer. Israel does whatever it wants.”
The shooting of al-Sharif was the latest in a series of incidents where Palestinians have been killed while appearing to pose little or no threat, most of which have not led to investigations, according to Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem, which initially distributed Abu Shamsiyeh’s video.
“There have been no investigations yet into these suspected cases when Palestinian assailants or suspected assailants were killed [by Israeli soldiers],” said B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli.
There have only been two investigations by the department of police investigations into cases where police have killed Palestinians, according to Michaeli. “One was closed and one was only opened recently. So this is a very clear message to soldiers on the ground.”
Despite threats made to his family, Abu Shamsiyeh stood by the video and said he would testify in court if he was called upon.
“I know that the Israeli military has been trying to dismiss the video and pretend I fabricated it,” he said.
“I didn’t film anything that didn’t happen. What I filmed was what really took place. If I was asked to testify then I will go no matter what happens.”