Footage shores up claim police shot first during Bedouin demolition op
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Footage shores up claim police shot first during Bedouin demolition op

Audio recording synced to police video seems to confirm Umm al-Hiran incident that left officer and local teacher dead was not terrorism

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)

The release of new footage of a fatal police shooting and car-ramming incident last month during the demolition of homes in the southern Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran bolstered the claim that police opened fire on the driver of the vehicle before it accelerated into a group of police officers.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the Israel Police claimed that Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, 47, a teacher, had intentionally accelerated his SUV with its lights off into a group of police officers, killing 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34.

Israel Police Chief Roni Alscheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said immediately after the incident that Abu al-Qia’an, whose home was among those demolished that day, was inspired by the Islamic State group to carry out a terror attack.

However, in audio footage of the incident synced with video taken by a police drone and released immediately after the fatal event, gunshots can be heard before Abu Al-Qia’an’s vehicle accelerates into the police officers (video begins at 10:15).

The new footage, aired by Channel 10 Saturday, seemed to further undermine the police narrative that Abu Al-Qia’an had set out to ram police officers with his car, prompting the police to open fire in response.

The initial release of the video from the police drone, in which a police officer can be seen firing a number of shots at the vehicle before it begins to accelerate, did not include the audio released Saturday.

The new synchronized video joins footage recently released by Al-Jazeera, which showed Abu Al-Qia’an’s vehicle had its lights on, contrary to police’s assertions that they were off at the time of the incident.

A police officer who was at the scene and was wounded in the incident said the cops fired at the vehicle’s wheels — and not in the air, as originally reported — after the driver refused to heed calls to stop.

Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)
Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)

Residents and activists supporting the Bedouin in their campaign to oppose the demolitions have insisted that Abu Al-Qia’an was shot by police before the ramming, and did not have control of the vehicle when it hit the officers.

According to a report by Channel 10 last month, Abu Al-Qia’an’s autopsy indicated 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, which may have locked onto the gas pedal of the car he was driving.

The autopsy reported by Channel 10 also found that Abu Al-Qia’an was probably killed from a second bullet that hit him in the torso, from loss of blood.

He might have been saved if he’d been given medical attention immediately, allowing police to investigate him, the report said, but was left to bleed to death for about 30 minutes.

Tensions at the site quickly escalated following the killings of the police officer and driver, with clashes breaking out between local residents, activists and Arab lawmakers trying to reach the scene, and in the days that followed there were widespread protests and demonstrations by members of Israel’s Arab community against the shooting and alleged discrimination that prevents members of the community obtaining building approval, resulting in illegal construction.

Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)
Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

A day after the deaths, the Police Internal Investigations Department, a branch of the Justice Ministry, announced that it was opening a preliminary probe into the fatal incident. The department said the probe would look into why officers fired their weapons at the vehicle before it sped up.

The findings of the Internal Investigations Department are expected to be released in the coming weeks, Channel 10 reported.

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