Relatives of a Palestinian man shot dead last week by IDF troops who claim he was attempting to carry out a car-ramming against Israeli soldiers said they do not believe the allegation made against him, as Israeli security experts agree that the accused does not fit the traditional profile of a terrorist.
The IDF said last Thursday that troops shot dead a man trying to run down soldiers in al-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah. The army said one soldier was lightly wounded in the incident.
Palestinian Authority Health Ministry spokesman Osama Najjar identified the man as 58-year-old Hamdan al-Arda, who owned an aluminum factory in al-Bireh and hailed from Araba, a village near Jenin.
“The army’s narrative is not true,” Firas al-Arda, Hamdan’s son, said in a phone conversation with The Times of Israel. “He was on his way home and was not a person who would ever run his car into someone on purpose.”
Firas said he worked with his father at the aluminum factory and left the workplace on Thursday shortly before the alleged car-ramming took place.
“We usually go home separately,” he said. “I went went home on Thursday in the afternoon and he was supposed to come home shortly after me.”
Hamdan, a father to five children, had been working at the aluminum factory for some 20 years, according to Firas.
An IDF spokeswoman said she has nothing to add to what the army already said about the alleged car-ramming. She also declined to comment on whether the army possessed video recordings of the incident.
Footage published by Palestinian news site Quds News Network appears to show Hamdan’s car moments after he was shot dead.
استشهاد حمدان العارضة من بلدة عرابة برصاص قوات الاحتلال في مدينة البيرة مساء اليوم بحجة محاولته تنفيذ عملية دهس. pic.twitter.com/VCXZc0yCAg
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) December 13, 2018
Mohammad al-Arda, one of Hamdan’s cousins, emphasized his relative was not a political man and was focused on his business and family.
“It’s impossible he tried to run over the soldiers. He was not involved in national and political matters,” Mohammad said. “He was most concerned about his business and family.”
Shlomo Brom, a retired IDF brigadier general, agreed that Hamdan’s profile does not match with that of most Palestinian terrorists.
“He does not fit the usual profile [of a terrorist],” he told The Times of Israel. “Most are typically young and uneducated.”
Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, echoed Bron’s comments, but also cautioned he has was aware of some Palestinian terrorists with profiles similar to that of Hamdan.
“I would say it is a not a widespread phenomenon,” Lerner said, alluding to older Palestinian terrorists with jobs and family. “But I would also say it is not completely unheard of.”
Over the past three and a half years, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who have carried out attacks against Israelis have been below the age of 30.
Khalil al-Arda, another relative of Hamdan and a member of the Araba municipal council, also said his family member was primarily focused on his business and family.
“He was interested in improving his financial status and spending time with his kids,” he said. “Hamdan spent 15 years in Saudi where he worked before he came back here to open the aluminum business. He had no political affiliations and was not involved in those matters. He also was very closely connected to all of the family in Araba. He was not someone who would run his car over soldiers.”
Khalil added the alleged car-ramming took place in a relatively quiet industrial area in al-Bireh, where he understood no eyewitnesses were present at the time other than the soldiers.
All three members of the Arda family also denied a report in the Haaretz daily that Hamdan was hard of hearing.
Haaretz reported Hamdan’s family members said he was hard of hearing and therefore likely “veered off course when he was surprised by the soldiers’ presence.”
Hundreds of Palestinians in Araba participated in a march Thursday night in protest of Hamdan’s death.
Mohammad called on Israel to turn Hamdan’s body over to his family for burial.
“We want to bury his body as soon as possible. It is important in our tradition to bury the body quickly after death,” he said. “We have called the Palestinian coordinator’s office and they keep on telling us Israel has still not agreed to return the body.”
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the branch of the Defense Ministry responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, referred questions about the status of Hamdan’s body to the IDF, which declined to comment on the matter.
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