Ramallah – Video footage released on Tuesday showed the fatal shooting by Israeli forces of a mentally challenged Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank last week was unlawful and unjustified.
Mohammed Hossam Abdel Latif Habali, 22, can be seen in the video walking down a street in Tulkarem, a northwestern town in the West Bank; he was walking away from soldiers when he was shot in the back of the head.
Sourced from four security cameras at the scene by Israeli NGO B’tselem, the footage showed there was no disturbance or clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army when Habali was killed.
After the incident on December 4, Israeli forces declared they were responding to a “violent disturbance of the peace”, though the video contradicts them being in any danger.
At about midnight last Tuesday, 100 Israeli soldiers entered Tulkarem to conduct raids in various Palestinian homes.
At the time, a few young Palestinians came out onto the street and threw stones at the soldiers, who responded by firing rubber-coated rounds and tear gas.
More than two hours later, in a different part of the city, about 30 Israeli soldiers spread out in small teams across a-Nuzha Street and an alley near al-Fadiliyah Boys’ High School.
Residents of Tulkarem came out of their homes and stood near a local restaurant about 150 metres away from the soldiers to see what was happening.
Habali, who was mentally challenged, was one onlooker and could be seen in the video footage walking across the road.
The footage shows no clashes were occurring in the area and the situation appeared calm.
At 2:25am, three soldiers moved towards the restaurant – stopping 80 metres away – and opened fire at the bystanders, forcing them to disperse.
Walking away behind the other Palestinians, Habali was shot in the back of the head and fell to the ground.
The soldiers left the scene and Habali was taken to a hospital in Tulkarem without a pulse.
After Habali’s death, Israeli forces continued to state “dozens of Palestinians were throwing stones” and they had “responded with crowd control means and later with live fire”.
On obtaining the footage, B’tselem stated, “the lethal shooting was not preceded by a warning, was not justified, and constitutes a violation of the law”.
The Israeli military said an investigation has been launched. B’tselem said it believes nothing will come of the army’s probe.
“The military will continue to use unjustified lethal force without being called to account or paying any price for such actions,” B’tselem wrote in a statement.
Since 2000, the group has demanded investigations into 739 cases where Israeli forces killed or wounded Palestinians.
Figures analysed by B’tselem show that no investigation was ever opened in 25 percent of the cases.
In half of the cases, the probe was closed with no further action, and in only 25 cases were charges issued against the soldiers involved.
In response to these figures, B’tselem said the Israeli military law enforcement system did not aim to uncover the truth.
“Its goal is not to bring to account the chain of command responsible for such incidents, or to prevent similar instances from recurring,” the rights group said.