A state forensic examination has found that a senior Arab lawmaker may have been injured by rubber bullets during a protest against government demolition of homes last week.
The report by the Health Ministry’s National Center for Forensic Medicine, released Monday, was unable to confirm or deny competing claims between Ayman Odeh and police over whether he was lightly injured in the head by a rock hurled by protesters or police riot-dispersal methods.
The report found that it was “not possible to determine the nature of the objects which caused the injuries,” although the location of the injuries and the way they were formed “could have been caused” by rubber bullets.
The examination was meant to put to rest an ongoing fight between Odeh and police over the injuries he sustained during a massive police operation to demolish homes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. Two people were killed in January 18 events, in bitterly disputed circumstances — a police officer and the local Bedouin man who rammed his car into the police.
Odeh was briefly hospitalized at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba later that day after being hit in the head and back. Doctors described his wounds as light.
Hospital officials said medical staff could not determine from the wounds whether Odeh was struck by rocks or crowd-control ordnance.
Odeh submitted the inconclusive forensic report by Dr. Maya Forman to the police investigations department as part of a formal complaint, and claimed it proved he had been hit by bullets.
“Today, we exposed one of a web of lies constructed by the police and the public security minister around the brutal eviction of the village of Umm al-Hiran,” he said in a statement.
“I repeat my call for an independent, official committee to investigate the events from the moment of the decision to evict the village with police armed with live ammunition, including the behavior of the police during the violent eviction, and the full array of lies spread by the police and the Public Security Ministry. From beginning to end, the conduct of the police has taught us once again that the police treats Arab citizens as enemies — not as citizens,” he added.
A statement from the police said they could not respond to Odeh’s comments because the events of Umm al-Hiran were still under investigation. The statement added that the police had never commented on the cause of Odeh’s injuries.
In a tweet, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused Odeh of misrepresenting the probe’s findings.
Police have been accused of using excessive force during the demonstration, which saw the death of a police officer and a local man who drove his jeep toward officers in the pre-dawn hours of January 18. The driver’s jeep plowed into a group of cops, killing officer Erez Levi, in what Israeli government ministers and police allege was a deliberate act of terrorism. Witnesses and relatives claim the driver, Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, lost control of his car after being shot and hit by cops or while trying to flee the bullets.
An initial autopsy showed he may have lost control of his vehicle after he was shot in the knee, causing him to slam into the officer, Channel 10 news reported.
Further findings have thus far been inconclusive.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.