Military Police probe troops’ killing of Palestinian in car that ran roadblock

Initial investigation said to show driver of car in which East Jerusalem man killed didn’t intend to ram soldiers at West Bank checkpoint

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers inspect cars at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on January 10, 2018. (Jaafar/Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers inspect cars at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on January 10, 2018. (Jaafar/Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Military Police opened an investigation Friday into death of an East Jerusalem man, who was shot by Israeli troops after a car he was traveling in drove through a roadblock in the West Bank.

Another person in the vehicle was wounded in Thursday’s incident, which occurred shortly after shots were fired at a bus stop near the Ofra settlement north of Jerusalem, causing no injuries.

Soldiers from the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion at the so-called Focus checkpoint opened fire at the vehicle after it ignored their orders to stop and ran through a nearby roadblock, killing one of the passengers and wounding another, Hebrew media reports said.

A preliminary investigation indicated the driver did not try to run over the soldiers and no weapons were found in the vehicle, according to the Ynet news site.

It also reported one of the soldiers said afterwards he aimed at the car’s tires.

The Palestinian health ministry confirmed one man was killed. Palestinian media named him as Qassem Abassi, 17, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

The head of the Judea and Samaria Division — named for the biblical term for the West Bank — later clarified the army’s rules of engagement allows troops to fire at a car only in the case of “clear and present danger” or definite shooting from the vehicle.

“We’re killing people who didn’t intend to kill,” Channel 10 news quoted Brig. Gen Eran Niv saying.

Last week, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian man in the town al-Bireh the army said was trying to run over soldiers. The family of Hamdan al-Arda, 58, denied he was trying to ram into the soldiers and some Israeli security experts said he does not fit the traditional profile of a terrorist.

Thursday’s incident came as tensions ran high following two shootings in the area last week that claimed the lives of two Israeli soldiers and a baby, and amid a general uptick in violence in the West Bank.

The soldiers were from the same Netzah Yehuda battalion.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was also investigating Thursday’s shooting near Ofra, which appeared to come from the nearby Palestinian village of Ein Yabrud

Screen capture from video of a shooting incident at the Ofra junction in the West Bank, December 20, 2018. (Facebook)

The latest violence came after two shooting attacks last week along Route 60, one at the Ofra Junction on December 9 and another at the Givat Assaf Junction on December 13.

Two Netzah Yehuda soldiers were killed and another was critically injured in the Givat Assaf attack. Several Israelis were injured in the attack at the Ofra Junction, including a seven-months pregnant woman, whose baby — delivered in emergency surgery by doctors hours after the attack — died four days later.

An Israeli defense official said Thursday that the Palestinian man suspected of carrying out the terror attack near Givat Assaf is Asem Barghouti, the brother of Salih Barghouti, who was suspected of having carried out the attack near Ofra.

Salih was shot dead on December 12 in a village near Ramallah as he attacked Israeli security forces in an attempt to evade arrest, the Shin Bet security service said.

The attackers from the Givat Assaf shooting are still at large.

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