Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
Israeli army paramedics evacuate the body of a Palestinian man at the Qalandiya checkpoint after an alleged attempted stabbing attack, on April 27, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The family of a Palestinian brother and sister who were shot dead last week as they allegedly tried to carry out a stabbing attack demanded Monday the release of security camera footage of the incident, and insisted that the two had no intention of attacking security personnel and had merely taken a wrong turn when they were gunned down.
Maram Hassan Abu Ismail, 23, and her brother Ibrahim Saleh Taha, 16, residents of Beit Surif, a village in the central West Bank, were shot dead at the Qalandiya crossing north of Jerusalem on April 27. An investigation determined Sunday that the pair were shot by civilian security guards and not Border Police officers stationed at the crossing. Abu Ismail had hurled a knife at security personnel before she was shot, according to the police account of the incident. Police said the knife was recovered at the scene; a spokeswoman said a second, identical knife was found on Taha’s belt, along with a Leatherman-style multi-tool.
Their father, Salah Abu Ismail, 61, from the village of Katana north of Jerusalem, told The Times of Israel in a telephone interview Monday that his daughter had arrived at the crossing to obtain a permit to enter Jerusalem for medical treatment. He insisted that neither of his children was carrying a knife.
“They should release the footage,” Salah said. “If she or her brother had a knife and they tried to carry out an attack, they should go ahead and show it.”
Police have so far refused to release the footage, saying it is evidence in an ongoing investigation.
Salah said Abu Ismail, a pregnant mother of two, injured herself in the hand a few weeks before the incident. When the wound became infected, and she was unable to find suitable medical treatment in her village or in Ramallah, she traveled to Qalandiya in the hope of obtaining a permit to seek treatment in Jerusalem. But never having been to the crossing before, she enlisted her teenage brother to accompany her on the journey, he said.
“Everything that I am telling you is based on eyewitnesses who saw what happened there, and with whom we have spoken,” Salah said. “I remind you, she had never been to the Qalandiya crossing. She got off the minibus that arrived from Ramallah and by mistake entered the car lane instead of the pedestrian lane.
“They shouted something at her and she didn’t understand. Her brother was walking a few meters behind her. She walked about 15 meters away and they simply shot her. Her brother quickly ran to her and tried to pull her away and then they shot him too.”
Salah was dismissive of the Israeli account, according to which his daughter threw a knife at security personnel manning the crossing.
“They claim that, but eyewitnesses saw how they put the knife on her to justify shooting her,” he said. “And now let’s just say that she had a knife there, or her brother. So do you have pictures of them coming to stab someone? If you do, please, go ahead and publish them. Why are you trying to hide the truth? Neither she, nor her brother, had knives. She just needed to get to the crossing to obtain an entry permit for Jerusalem, that’s all. And because she mistakenly entered the wrong lane, they shot her.”
Salah said that two nights ago he was questioned by the Shin Bet security services and the day before by police.
“They tried to clarify if she was connected to an organization or had made political statements,” he said. “But this is a mother of two girls, and she and her family members never had any problem with Israel.”
Two knives and a Leatherman-style multi-tool that a Palestinian couple allegedly planned to use to attack Border Police officers at the Qalandiya border crossing on April 27, 2016. (Israel Police)
Others have demanded the release of the security camera footage, including Knesset Member Dov Khenin of the Joint (Arab) List.
Last week, Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said security forces at the checkpoint spotted Abu Ismail walking toward guards with her hand concealed inside her purse and Taha’s hand behind his back, holding something.
“The officers called on them to stop a number of times,” she said in a statement.
“The female terrorist stopped a short distance from the officers, then walked the other way with the man, when she suddenly turned around to face the officers again, pulled out a knife that was in her purse and threw it at an officer near her,” Samri said.
The kitchen knife that was allegedly thrown was recovered from the scene, while an identical knife and a Leatherman-style multi-tool were discovered in Taha’s belt, she added.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department announced Sunday that it had determined the shots that killed the siblings were not fired by police, but rather by civilian security contractors, and that it was therefore handing the investigation over to the Israel Police itself.
The Defense Ministry often contracts guards from private companies to bolster its security presence at major checkpoint crossings between Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.
Its guards are legally and professionally subordinate to the police.
The private guards don’t usually come into contact with Palestinians crossing through the checkpoints, and are frequently stationed behind concrete barriers to generally reinforce Israeli security in the area.
Qalandiya, and the adjacent crossing between the West Bank and Israel, has been a flashpoint of conflict in the recent wave of violence that has rocked the area since September of last year.