Amid questions over shooting, police release video of driver ramming checkpoint

Amid questions over shooting, police release video of driver ramming checkpoint

Border Police push back on charges that Ahmad Erekat was killed without cause; in 2nd video family says is months old, Erekat vows he is ‘no snitch’ for Israel

The scene of an alleged car-ramming attempt at a West Bank checkpoint near Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, June 23, 2020. (Musa Al Shaer/AFP)
The scene of an alleged car-ramming attempt at a West Bank checkpoint near Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, June 23, 2020. (Musa Al Shaer/AFP)

Border Police on Wednesday released security footage from a suspected car-ramming attack in the West Bank, seeking to push back against accusations that Israeli forces shot and killed the assailant without reason.

In the video from Tuesday’s incident, a car driven by Ahmad Moustafa 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.

As the driver gets out of the vehicle, he appears to begin running from the police officers, but quickly falls to the ground after being shot.

Erekat, 28, was later pronounced dead at the scene.

“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,” a Border Police statement said.

The statement also said the female officer, who was lightly injured, has been released from the hospital.

In a second video that emerged Wednesday, 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 comments to Hebrew media, a Border Police source dismissed accusations that Erekat was killed in cold blood.

“Unfortunately, in recent hours various elements have chosen to portray the event in a completely distorted way and not as a ramming attack, while besmirching the officers’ conduct and covering up the terrorist’s grave actions,” the Border Police source was quoted saying.

In the second video that circulated on social media Wednesday, Erekat is seen in his car, saying “Your bro’s no snitch. I never betrayed the homeland.”

He appears to refer to Israeli officials or agents pressuring him, “[trying to] get me in trouble” by putting his photo on the Facebook page of COGAT, the body that coordinates between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.

Erekat’s family said the video was made months ago, refuting its characterization as a testimonial made ahead of a planned attack.

On Tuesday, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Ahmad Moustafa Erekat, his cousin, was only “rushing” through the checkpoint, and rejected Israel’s account that he intentionally drove into the police officer as part of an attack.

“Israeli soldiers shot dead Ahmad Erekat from Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, on his sister’s wedding day,” PLO executive committee secretary-general Erekat’s office said in a statement. “Ahmad was rushing through a checkpoint to bring his mother and sister from a beauty salon in Bethlehem.”

“My cousin, the nephew of my wife, was executed, murdered in cold blood and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu bears responsibility,” Erekat was separately quoted as having told the Kan public broadcaster.

Ahmad Erekat. (Courtesy)

Ahmad himself was slated to be married next week, Erekat said.

“The finger is too light on the trigger and death is definite,” Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi wrote on Twitter. “The video needs to be immediately released.”

Another cousin, Rutgers University assistant professor Noura Erekat, accused Israeli authorities of letting Ahmad bleed out, after footage emerged of him bleeding on the ground as a border police officer nearly steps over him but declines to offer medical help.

The PLO Negotiations office further claimed that the Israeli army had prevented the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency response service from reaching the scene and providing medical treatment.

Responding to the allegations, a Border Police spokesman told The Times of Israel that forces provided medical attention to the assailant within minutes, but were forced to declare the suspect’s death minutes later.

Footage from the scene after Erekat had been shot shows him bleeding, but still moving. The Border Police spokesman said the video in question had been filmed in the minutes before medics arrived at the scene.

News of the alleged attack and shooting traveled quickly through Erekat’s hometown of Abu Dis, and clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Abu Dis residents. Protesters lit tires and garbage ablaze to block one of the town’s main roads, according to videos circulating on Palestinian social media.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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