PLO’s Erekat says cop ‘executed’ cousin en route to pick up sister for wedding

Top Palestinian official refutes Border Police account that 27-year-old sought to run over officer at checkpoint, says victim was supposed to get married himself next week

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Ahmed Erekat. (Courtesy)
Ahmed Erekat. (Courtesy)

Palestinians said a man shot and killed by Israeli forces during an alleged car-ramming attempt was actually rushing to pick up his sister and mother ahead of a family wedding later Tuesday evening, accusing Israel of executing him in cold blood.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said his cousin, Ahmad Moustafa Erakat, was only rushing when Border Police shot him dead at the “Container” checkpoint in the neighborhood of Abu Dis, north of Bethlehem. Erekat rejected the Israeli account that the 28-year-old victim had attempted to run over a female officer in an attempt to commit a terror attack.

“Israeli soldiers shot dead Ahmad Erekat from Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, on his sister’s wedding day,” PLO executive committee secretary general Erekat’s office said in a statement. “Ahmad was rushing through a checkpoint to bring his mother and sister from a beauty salon in Bethlehem.”

“My cousin, the nephew of my wife, was executed, murdered in cold blood and Netanyahu bears responsibility,” Erekat was separately quoted as having told the Kan public broadcaster.

PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat addresses the media following a meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 30, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Erekat called his cousin a “peacemaker” and said that “instead of having a wedding, we put away the flower arrangements and chairs and set up a mourning tent instead.”

Ahmad himself was slated to be married next week, Erekat said.

According to Border Police, the younger Erekat was speeding when he arrived at a checkpoint at the entrance of Abu Dis. When an officer flagged him to halt, the driver veered toward her and slammed into the checkpoint tower. He subsequently got out of the vehicle and advanced toward forces who opened fire and killed him.

“It’s possible that the car slid a bit because of the speed. Ahmad was so excited for his sister on her wedding day, and preparing for his own wedding in early July,” Emad Erekat, Ahmad’s cousin, told Ma’an News Agency.

Another cousin, Rutgers University assistant professor Noura Erakat, accused Israeli authorities of letting Ahmed bleed out, after footage emerged of him bleeding on the ground as a border police officer nearly steps over him but declines to offer medical help.

The PLO Negotiations office further claimed that the Israeli army had prevented the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency response service from reaching the scene and providing medical treatment.

Responding to the allegations, a Border Police spokesman told The Times of Israel that their forces provided medical attention attention to the assailant within minutes, but were forced to declare the suspect’s death minutes later.

The officer operating the checkpoint was lightly injured while jumping out of the way of Erekat’s vehicle and was transferred to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment.

Footage from the scene after Erekat had been shot shows him bleeding, but still moving. The Border Police spokesman said that the video in question had been filmed in the minutes before medics arrived at the scene.

A police spokesman declined to comment on why footage from the moments when the incident took place had not yet been released, despite the existence of security cameras at the site.

News of the alleged attack and shooting traveled quickly through Ahmad’s hometown of Abu Dis, and clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Abu Dis residents. Protesters lit tires and garbage ablaze to block one of the town’s main roads, according to videos circulating on Palestinian social media.

Abu Dis Popular Resistance Committee spokesperson Hani Halbiyeh said that Ahmad volunteered on the local Youth Council and was quick to help with activities and events in the community.

“An atmosphere of shock and grief has settled over Abu Dis in the wake of his death,” Halbiyeh told Ma’an News Agency.

Local associations in Abu Dis announced a general strike tomorrow and have designated Thursday and Friday as days of public mourning.

“This is a crime – the execution of a young man days before his wedding…These are the crimes of an Israeli occupation that we’ve sadly become accustomed to,” Abu Dis Popular Resistance Committee member Dr. Abdullah Abu Hilal told Palestine Today TV.

The scene of an alleged car-ramming attempt at a West Bank checkpoint near Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, June 23, 2020. (Musa Al SHAER/AFP)

Abu Hilal claimed that the Container Checkpoint, where Ahmad was shot, was notorious in Abu Dis for the degree of harassment Palestinian residents received by Israeli soldiers while crossing.

The Gaza-based terror group Hamas also condemned the shooting, with Hamas spokesman Hazim Qasim calling Ahmad’s death “an execution.”

“He was participating in the preparations for his sister’s wedding,” Qasim said in a statement. “There will be no redemption for the Palestinian people until the occupier is expelled from all our land through total resistance.”

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report

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