The two Israeli Border Police officers captured on video taking a bicycle from an 8-year-old Palestinian girl in the West Bank city of Hebron last month will not face criminal charges over the incident.
The Police Investigations Department, which is under the Justice Ministry’s purview, said Monday the officers’ conduct in the July 25 incident was “inappropriate and unprofessional,” but did not warrant criminal prosecution.
The case will be transferred to the Israel Police disciplinary board for further review, the department said.
The video released earlier this month by the B’Tselem human rights organization showed 8-year-old Anwar Burqan standing with her bicycle as she spoke to an unnamed border guard in the West Bank city.
During the conversation, the officer appeared to pin down the bike with his foot, before another officer arrived, and the two border guards were seen sending the girl away in tears.
Once Burqan left the area, the second border guard picked up the bicycle and walked away with it. The video then panned over to the first officer who can be seen shooing away other children standing nearby.
According to B’Tselem, the second border guard threw the bicycle into the bushes, but this does not appear in the video. However, the officer was seen in the clip touching the bush branches before walking away, which appears to corroborate the human rights group’s account.
In the wake of the incident, the Border Police suspended one of the two officers from active duty, while the Police Investigations Department launched its own probe.
Both guards were questioned under caution by PID investigators last week.
According to their attorneys, the guards told investigators that they confiscated Burqan’s bicycle to prevent her from crossing into the Jewish neighborhood of Hebron, which Palestinians are banned from entering, Haaretz reported.
The officers said they took her bicycle because they cannot speak Arabic and were afraid they would not get their point across. They later allowed a family member to retrieve the bike, when it was clear she would not ride it in the Jewish area, the two maintained.
The July incident occurred on Hebron’s al-Ibrahimi Street, according to B’Tselem, which leads to both the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the al-Ibrahimi mosque, holy sites for Jews and Muslims, respectively.
In recent years, the street has become controversial as Israeli forces erected a fence in 2012 that runs along the road, splitting it in two.
Palestinians allege that soldiers and Border Police officers forbid residents to use the larger paved section of the street, while Israeli officials have denied the claim.