The father of Ahmad Erekat, who was shot dead by Border Police after allegedly carrying out a ramming attack outside of Jerusalem last month, has appealed to the High Court of Justice to compel Israel to release his son’s body for burial after withholding it since the incident.
Erekat, a 27-year-old resident of Abu Dis, approached the “Container” checkpoint on June 23 before abruptly accelerating and turning toward a group of police, lightly wounding an officer.
Video footage from the scene showed that as Erekat got out of the vehicle, he appeared to begin running away from the police officers, who shot him.
Erekat’s family has denied he intended to commit a ramming attack, and some family members suggested it was an accident that happened while he was rushing through the checkpoint to pick up his sister ahead of her wedding that same day.
The injured Border Police officer insisted that the incident was deliberate, however. Shani Orr Hama Kadosh said in an Israeli TV interview: “I signaled to him to halt, the car started to slow down, and I moved in his direction. He saw that I took a step, he looked me in the eye, turned the steering wheel and rammed into me, and I flew to the other side” of the median.
Moustafa Mousa Erekat, who submitted the appeal with the legal aid organization Adalah on Tuesday, said his son’s body has been held by the Israel Defense Forces since the alleged attack, even though the IDF had initially promised to return it.
In a statement this week, the family demanded “the release of the body of our son Ahmad Erekat in order for us to allow him a proper and dignified burial and to allow our family to bid farewell and mourn in peace.”
“When you see his father’s face, his eyes, you can feel that he’s completely lost for words from his grief and pain. He just wants the return of his son’s remains. It’s the natural right of everyone, everywhere in the world, but Palestinians don’t even have the right to say goodbye,” Ahmad’s cousin Dalal Erekat told The Times of Israel.
According to the plaintiffs, the IDF originally told the family that Ahmad Erekat’s body would be returned to them on the night of June 24, the day after the shooting. The family then began to prepare for a funeral at their home in Abu Dis.
Some hours later, the plaintiffs claimed in court filings, the family was contacted again and told that the body would continue to be withheld due to “political considerations.”
The bodies of over 50 Palestinians killed while allegedly committing acts of terror are currently being held by the IDF, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.
In 2019, the Israeli High Court ruled that the IDF could keep bodies of alleged terrorists in custody for the purpose of ensuring national security, such as using the remains of Hamas terrorists as bargaining chips in an eventual exchange with the Gaza-based terror group.
In December 2019, then-defense minister Naftali Bennett announced that all terrorists’ bodies would be kept, regardless of whether they were affiliated with Hamas. The controversial policy rested on shaky legal grounds, as the High Court’s ruling only allowed bodies to be withheld for national security reasons. Last week, the Ynet news site reported that Defense Minister Benny Gantz had ordered a similar policy.
In the video from the incident, a car driven by Erekat can be seen approaching a checkpoint in Abu Dis, before abruptly accelerating and turning toward a group of police. The car then rams into a female officer — who is knocked into the air — before colliding with a booth and coming to a stop. He was then shot by police officers after exiting the vehicle.
“He waited for a good moment, turned from the middle of the lane to the side to get a better angle to hurt the officer and then accelerated, turning his car 90 degrees and lunged wildly at the officers,” the Border Police said in a statement at the time, defending the actions of the officers on the scene.
However, Ahmad’s cousin and senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat said that Border Police had executed him “in cold blood.”
His cousin Dalal Erekat told The Times of Israel that Ahmad would not have carried out an attack.
“Ahmad was a normal man, a young man, who didn’t really belong to any political organization, nor was particularly religious, he had a close network of social relationships…He had no motives, not even the slightest reason that could have led him to do such a thing,” she said.
In a second video that emerged after the alleged attack, Erekat is seen in his car speaking of rumors he has collaborated with Israeli security forces while promising he is “no snitch.” Some Hebrew media reports said the video was made shortly before the incident. But according to Kan news, Erekat’s family said it was a months-old clip.
In response to a request for comment on the case, the IDF told The Times of Israel that the government’s response would be submitted to the High Court “according to the appropriate procedure.”