In tacit exoneration, body of Palestinian car-ramming suspect returned to family

Israeli authorities regularly hold bodies of attackers in order to deter future attacks; police internal affairs says incident ‘being examined,’ but no investigation

Police inspect a car used in a suspected attempted car-ramming at the a-Zaim crossing outside Jerusalem on November 25, 2020. (Shlomo Mor)
Police inspect a car used in a suspected attempted car-ramming at the a-Zaim crossing outside Jerusalem on November 25, 2020. (Shlomo Mor)

The body of a Palestinian man shot by Border Police officers, who believed him to be committing a ramming attack with terrorist motives, will be returned to his family on Sunday night for a small funeral, his lawyer told The Times of Israel.

“He is being returned tonight on the condition of a small funeral, with no more than 20 people in attendance,” Mohammad Mahmoud, a lawyer for the Al-Dameer legal defense group, said in a phone call.

Given that Israeli authorities detain the bodies of suspected terrorists as part of a controversial policy that seeks to deter future acts of terror, the return of the remains increases the likelihood that authorities do not believe last week’s incident was ideologically motivated.

A spokesperson for the Shin Bet security service said that the incident was being investigated by the police. An Israel Police spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Nur Jamal Shuqeir, a 32-year-old resident of East Jerusalem, was pulled over by police officers at the Al-Za’im checkpoint outside of the capital last Wednesday.

Al-Za’im, which lies east of Jerusalem, has seen several attempted terror attacks since its construction in 2003. The checkpoint lies along Road 1, which divides Jerusalem from Ma’ale Adumim, and only permits Israelis and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to enter.

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead at the checkpoint in January 2019, as she tried to stab an Israeli security officer on the scene.

While being questioned, officers realized that Shuqeir’s identification papers apparently belonged to someone else. Possibly due to the discovery of his false identification, Shuqeir drove his car quickly toward a border guard, hitting and lightly injuring him, police reported at the time.

Other Border Police officers at the scene shot Shuqeir. He was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, where he was pronounced dead, the medical center said.

According to the hospital, Shaqir sustained gunshot wounds to the stomach and arrived without a pulse.

Police initially reported the incident as a suspected ramming attack. As more details emerged, authorities revised their assessment, stating that it was not immediately clear if the incident was an act of terror.

A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department told The Times of Israel that the officers’ behavior during the incident is being “examined, but an investigation has not yet been opened.”

Illustrative: Border Police officers stand guard on a West Bank checkpoint on April 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/ FLASH90)

Israeli authorities have a policy of detaining the bodies of all those killed while allegedly attempting to commit violent acts of terror. While Israel has held the bodies of members of terror groups as bargaining chips in future negotiations, a policy instituted in September that the bodies of all suspected terrorists be held, regardless of their affiliation.

In a statement announcing the new policy, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that it was part of an “extensive deterrence apparatus.” The High Court has explicitly ruled, however, that deterrence is not a legitimate reason to withhold the bodies of terrorists. A challenge to the new rule is pending in the High Court of Justice.

That Shuqeir’s body is being returned makes it likely that his case is no longer being formally investigated as a terror incident, Mahmoud said in a statement put out by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Commission.

“The decision to return his body reveals that he was killed for no reason, and refutes the accusations that he was attempting to execute an attack,” Mahmoud said.

The bodies of over 50 Palestinians killed while allegedly committing acts of terror are currently being held by the Israel Defense Forces, according to the human rights organization B’Tselem.

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