Police announced on Sunday that they had found DNA evidence proving that a man who was shot in Jerusalem’s Old City had grabbed the gun of a police officer and carried out a terror attack.
Police said testing found the DNA of 26-year-old Mohammed Elasibi — a resident of the Bedouin town of Hura in southern Israel — on a weapon he was accused of grabbing and firing twice before he was shot dead by officers near the Temple Mount.
Eyewitnesses and Arab officials have mostly rejected that version of events, and former police officials said it is “hard to believe” the force’s insistence that the shooting wasn’t captured on any of the many CCTV cameras in the area.
Elasibi’s family rejected the “police’s story,” which it called “false and slanderous” one of his sisters, who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation, told AFP. She described her brother as a “polite and well-mannered person who loved helping others and [had] a peaceful personality.”
Israel Police said Sunday that the “DNA of the terrorist who carried out a terror shooting at the Chain Gate on Friday night was found on the police handgun that the terrorist grabbed from the policeman and used to shoot at officers,” adding that the genetic material was on the grip and slide of the weapon.
“This was unequivocally a weapon grab and terrorist shooting attack — just as we reported on the night of the attack,” police added in a statement.
“Many who published falsehoods regarding the incident should ask for forgiveness today from the police officers who acted bravely and fiercely and saved their lives by neutralizing the terrorist,” the statement added.
The Arab rights group Mossawa Center accused police of “manipulating investigative materials and obstructing the investigation,” in a statement Sunday.
“Parts of the policemen’s testimonies were published even before they were examined and cross-examined by the Defense Ministry. Now they are publishing false findings from a pathological test that still isn’t concluded, and not given to the family or investigators of the Defense Ministry,” the statement read.
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella group of leaders of the Arab community, declared a one-day strike on Sunday in protest of the shooting, arguing that in the absence of evidence proving otherwise, they view the incident as an innocent man being shot by cops.
The strike included public services, businesses, and all schools except special education institutions. Additionally, rallies were planned, including a mass protest during Elasibi’s funeral.
Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi was among the thousands who attended the Sunday afternoon funeral, during which he questioned the fact that security camera footage of the incident had not been released.
“Usually, in these events, when the police charge the someone has attacked an officer, after five minutes there is footage,” he told Hebrew media. “I know the area well, there are five cameras that record the area, and every policeman has a bodycam,” Tibi claimed, and demanded a recording be released.
“We are suspicious that the police coordinated their testimonies. They say exactly the same things, and this is very suspicious,” he said, adding that the Arab community does not have faith in law enforcement.
Tibi said the shooting was “exactly like the incident of Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an and Iyad Hallak,” two separate cases in recent years, in which police initially claimed a man shot dead by officers had carried out or planned to carry out an attack, before conceding they were innocent people shot in error.
A guest at the funeral told the Walla news site that he did not believe Elasibi was a terrorist: “If he was a terrorist, the Shin Bet security service would not allow a mourning tent.”
Police have issued statements doubling down on their version, including testimonies from cops involved, and have insisted the area was not covered by security cameras.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department was looking into the incident and was set to decide whether it warranted an investigation.
The shooting occurred near the flashpoint Temple Mount, where security forces are on high alert during the sensitive Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
For Palestinian Muslims, worship at the Temple Mount’s Al-Aqsa mosque — the third-holiest site in Islam — is a central part of Ramadan. Jews revere the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism as the location of two ancient Temples.
The Muslim holy month, which began last week and will end April 21, often sees elevated Israeli-Palestinian tensions, with frictions already high this year in Jerusalem and across the West Bank following months of deadly violence.