The killing of a Palestinian man by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem last year was an “extrajudicial execution”, according to a London-based group specialising in the investigation of violations of human rights.
Ahmed Erekat was shot at the Container checkpoint in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank in June 2020 and left to bleed to death for more than an hour after Israeli soldiers stopped a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance from treating him.
In a report published on Tuesday, Forensic Architecture said that the 27-year-old posed no threat to the Israeli soldiers, or to any property, and noted that he was not given any first aid treatment following the shooting, even when he showed signs of life.
“Our analysis raises major questions about Ahmed’s killing that raise doubts in the Israeli army’s claims and call for further investigation.”
Erekat, who was the nephew of then-Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, was on his way to pick his mother and sisters up, who were at a beauty salon getting ready for his sister’s wedding that evening, when he was killed. His own wedding was due to take place two weeks later.
Israeli security forces said Ahmed had attempted to ram his vehicle into a soldier at the checkpoint before they opened fire.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the man “drove his vehicle quickly towards the direction of a female border police officer who was injured lightly”.
Palestinian officials rejected the police account.
Saeb Erekat told the AFP news agency that his nephew had been “executed” by the Israeli police, adding that he held Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for “this crime”. The elder Erekat died from COVID-19 in November last year.
The new Forensic Architecture report uncovered significant discrepancies in Israel’s version of the events surrounding Ahmed Erekat’s killing.
It found Erekat did not accelerate his vehicle to hit the officers at the checkpoint, saying the evidence showed signs the vehicle was braking before impact.
“The car’s speed did not exceed 15 km/hr [9.3 miles per hour] – its acceleration was constant and low throughout, implying that there was no sudden attempt to speed up.”
The new report also said that Erekat did not approach the police officers at the checkpoint, as alleged.
A video from the scene of the incident also reveals “other details that cast doubt on the army’s narrative”, the report added.
Israel's cruel withholding of Ahmed Erekat's body for 9 months after fatally shooting him wo apparent justification amounts to unlawful collective punishment. My remarks in @Independent's coverage of new @ForensicArchi/@alhaq_org report debunking Israel's claims on Ahmed's death https://t.co/lr636dRT48 pic.twitter.com/V3Qua03KL9
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir) February 23, 2021
After the report was released, Erekat’s family appealed to the international community to help secure the release of his body, which remains with Israel.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, said withholding Erekat’s body amounted to unlawful collective punishment.
For years, Palestinian and Israeli rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force against those seen as a threat to its forces, deploying deadly force against those who could have been apprehended alive.
On January 31, an Israeli soldier shot dead a Palestinian suspected of attempting an attack on troops also in the West Bank.
Four days before that, a teenager was also shot and killed near the Jewish settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank.
Last year, Israeli security forces were accused of killing at least 27 Palestinians across occupied territories and in Israel, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
In at least 11 of the 16 killings investigated by B’Tselem in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinians “posed no threat to the lives of the forces” or any other person at the time they were shot.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said that it had apprehended “suspects” who reportedly tried to carry out a “car-ramming and shooting attack” against its troops last month in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
The report did not say how many suspects were arrested.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, in 1967. The Palestinians want these areas for their future state.