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Opposition MKs claim cover-up as doubts grow over ‘terrorist’ car-ramming

Lawmakers say autopsy proves Abu Al-Qia’an was shot before he plowed into cops in Bedouin village on Wednesday; accuse PM, Erdan of political point-scoring

Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia'an. (Courtesy)
Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia'an. (Courtesy)

Opposition members of the Knesset on Saturday accused police of a cover-up and called for a state commission of inquiry into the deaths of a police officer and the Bedouin man who ran him over, as doubts grew over whether the latter was a terrorist as officials have insisted.

An initial autopsy of Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an — accused by Israeli officials of terrorism when he ran over and killed policeman Erez Levi this week in the village of Umm al-Hiran — has shown the Bedouin man may have lost control of his vehicle after police shot him in the knee.

“The autopsy report on Abu Al-Qia’an reveals that Israeli police are responsible for his death and the death of the policeman Erez Levi,” said Meretz party chief Zehava Galon, Channel 10 reported.

“It is necessary to establish a commission of inquiry that will reveal the sequence of events in Umm al-Hiran, the police’s conflicting versions, and the incitement against Arab MKs and all the people of Umm al-Hiran,” Galon added.

Abu Al-Qia’an, 47, a teacher and father of 12, rammed his truck into a group of officers, killing 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, a father of two from Yavneh, while a group of Border Police officers was overseeing court-ordered home demolitions in the unrecognized Bedouin village on Wednesday morning.

Israeli police stand next to a vehicle that rammed into police officers in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, January 18, 2017. (Israel Police)
Israeli police stand next to a vehicle that rammed into police officers in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, January 18, 2017. (Israel Police)

According to a report by Channel 10 news on Friday evening, Abu Al-Qia’an’s autopsy indicates that a police bullet hit him in the right knee, smashing it. The bullet wound may have caused Abu Al-Qia’an to lose control of his leg, locking it onto the gas pedal of the car he was driving.

After Levi was run over, several police officers fired at Abu Al-Qia’an. The autopsy showed he was probably killed from a bullet that hit him in the torso, Channel 10 reported Friday. He did not die immediately, however, and was allowed to bleed to death for about 30 minutes. The report said Abu Al-Qia’an’s life could have possibly been saved if he’d received immediate medical attention.

Residents, activists and eyewitnesses had claimed even before the autopsy report that Abu Al-Qia’an’s car only accelerated and hit Levi after police shot at the driver, causing him to lose control.

But police and other public figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisted the incident was a terror attack. They accused Abu Al-Qia’an of jihadist sympathies and called the attack “terrorism” and “murder.”

Galon said Saturday: “The culture of cover-ups and lies, incitement and conflicting versions from the police prove that the lives of Arab citizens are of less value in the eyes of the police. The police allowed [Abu Al-Qia’an] to bleed to death.”

MK Ayman Odeh (center) of the Joint List and other Arab Israeli leaders stand at the scene of fatal clashes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in which Odeh was injured, on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 (courtesy)
MK Ayman Odeh (center) of the Joint List and other Arab Israeli leaders stand at the scene of fatal clashes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in which Odeh was injured, on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 (courtesy)

Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi, a medical doctor, agreed with Galon and called for an investigation into the decision to delay treatment.

“The clear finding requires personal reckoning among all those who rushed to argue that [Abu Al-Qia’an] was a terrorist and an Islamic State operative,” he said. “It must be investigated who gave the order to keep [Abu Al-Qia’an] in the field without medical treatment that could have saved his life.”

MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, demanded that Erdan be sacked for his remarks about Abu Al-Qia’an’s death. “[Erdan] incites and lies, and in a proper country he would be fired right now,” said Odeh, who took part in the protests of the demolition in the Bedouin village. “Netanyahu and Erdan are inciting against Arabs.”

Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul also accused members of the government of using the incident for their own political ends.

“While two innocent people lost their lives for no reason, those who are supposed to be our leaders have rushed to tear Israeli society apart — for the purpose of scoring momentary political points,” Bahloul said.

Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi, right, confronts an Israeli policeman in a tense standoff with Bedouin protesters in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, on January 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi, right, confronts an Israeli policeman in a tense standoff with Bedouin protesters in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, on January 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

Meanwhile, about a hundred demonstrators gathered at the Shoket junction in the Negev to protest the Israeli authorities’ refusal to return the body of Abu Al-Qia’an to his family. The protesters, according to the Ynet news site, carried signs calling for a commission of inquiry as well as Erdan’s ouster for accusing Abu Al-Qia’an of being a terrorist with ties to the Islamic State group.

The deputy commander of the police southern district, Peretz Amar, earlier called the incident “a deliberate attack.”

“This is a fact,” he said. “There is no other explanation, and anyone who tries to offer an alternative explanation wasn’t here at the time and doesn’t understand.”

Amar said there were two lines of officers either side of the road, and “no possible means to claim in this situation that he didn’t see them… He hit them. He killed [Levi].”

Videos of the incident did not definitively resolve the conflicting accounts.

One video, slowed to one-quarter speed, seems to show muzzle flashes from at least three shots coming from the firearm of one officer located next to Abu Al-Qia’an’s vehicle just before it accelerates toward other officers.

Some police sources said officers did fire, but into the air. Later, police reportedly acknowledged that they show at Abu al-Qia’an.

After the ramming, the vehicle is shown swerving to the right, then correcting to the left before coming to a stop as a police vehicle rushes into its way.

Oriel Eisner, 26, an activist for the Center for Jewish Non-violence who said he witnessed the incident, confirmed to The Times of Israel that police fired at the vehicle before it accelerated. Eisner speculated that the driver was trying to leave the village in order to avoid confrontation with police.

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