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‘My son’s killer is inhuman,’ says slain Arab man’s father

Rauf Hamdan claims officers initially fired tear gas at Kheir, knocking him out, but 22-year-old recovered and ran at police

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Rauf Hamdan, father of slain 22-year-old Kheir, who was shot by police after he ran at a cruiser with a knife, speaks to Israeli media (screen capture: Ynet)
Rauf Hamdan, father of slain 22-year-old Kheir, who was shot by police after he ran at a cruiser with a knife, speaks to Israeli media (screen capture: Ynet)

The father of an Israeli-Arab man killed by police over the weekend criticized harshly the conduct of the officers involved in the incident, saying Saturday that the shooter is “not human.”

Speaking to Ynet, Rauf Hamdan, whose 22-year-old son Kheir was shot Friday after allegedly trying to stab police officers, said, “They could have fired tear gas at him again or shot him in the leg, but they have no feelings.”

Rauf also said he tried to prevent his son from fighting with police. “That night we sat in the house, me and my son, and suddenly I heard shouts. I went out and saw him unconscious. I took him inside and I understood that police had fired tear gas at him. I went inside to change clothes, and when I came back I couldn’t find him. It turns out he went out to the road, where the cruiser was. I tried to bring him back but I didn’t succeed,” he recounted.

“No one would accept what they did,” he added. “He knocked on the window of the cruiser without hurting any policeman. He didn’t hold a knife in his hand, and also didn’t yell Allahu Akbar before he knocked on the window of the police car. The death of my son is connected to the entire Arab sector, and not just to the village. Whoever did this act is not human. The incident will not only interest residents of Kafr Kanna, but all of Palestine.”

Video of the event showed Hamdan with a knife in his hand as he ran at the police vehicle.

Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino on Saturday decided to raise the national alert level to the second highest following riots that broke out in Kafr Kanna in response to the killing. Israel’s Arab sector called a one-day strike Sunday in protest.

Kheir Hamdan was laid to rest Saturday night amid riots against police and protests by thousands of residents of the town. Danino stood by his subordinates, and responded to the “baseless aggression” against police in Kafr Kanna saying, “the police command under my authority gives complete support to the soldiers, officers and volunteers of the Israel Police.”

Israeli Arab leaders voiced outrage over the police’s conduct in Friday night’s incident, in which police shot and killed Hamdan, who allegedly attempted to stab officers who were dispatched to arrest a relative of his.

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who was urged by demonstrators to resign, called on the public to calm tensions and wait for the result of a police investigation into the officers’ actions, Israel Radio reported.

Screenshot from Panet showing a photo of Khdeir Hamdan, 22, who was shot by police November 7, 2014 during an attempted arrest.
Screenshot from Panet showing a photo of Khdeir Hamdan, 22, who was shot by police November 7, 2014 during an attempted arrest.

Aharonovitch said in a statement Saturday evening that the police officers feared for their lives after a man armed with a knife attacked them with intent to injure, which is why they responded in the manner they did. He added that he would continue to lend his support to police officers in the line of duty protecting the public, and expressed regret over the hostile reactions of those trying to agitate and gain political capital.

The driver of the police patrol car, the officer who fired the fatal bullet, was quoted by Channel 2 late Saturday night saying he fired because he feared his colleagues’ lives were in danger.

Officials said officers arrived to arrest a relative of Hamdan’s on suspicion of throwing a stun grenade. When Hamdan attempted to stab one of the officers, the police shot and critically injured him, they said. Police added that they warned the man by firing in the air, and when he didn’t desist, he was shot in the chest.

A short, edited surveillance video of the incident, which surfaced Saturday on the popular Israeli-Arab news website Panet, showed a slightly different sequence of events.

In it, Hamdan is seen attacking a police van, knife in hand, banging on the windows. An officer gets out and, as Hamdan is seen retreating, shoots him. Hamdan writhes on the ground, before police drag him into the van.

He was taken to hospital where he died of his wounds.

After the video surfaced, police said they were launching an investigation into the killing, and the police district involved said it would lend full cooperation to the investigation. Danino called an emergency meeting on the situation.

On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the rioting in Kafr Kanna following Hamdan’s death, saying that those who don’t respect the law will be punished with “utmost severity,” and threatening to strip citizenship from those who call for Israel’s destruction.

“Israel is a nation of law. We will not tolerate disturbances and rioting,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We will act against those who throw stones, block roads and call for the establishment of a Palestinian state in place of the State of Israel. Whoever does not honor Israeli law will be punished with utmost severity. I will instruct the Interior Minister to evaluate revoking the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett also defended police conduct, saying the officers acted appropriately under the circumstances.

“A frenzied Arab terrorist attacked our police officers with a knife in an attempt to kill them. The response of our police was what was expected of our security people,” the economics minister said.

“It’s possible and necessary to investigate. Always. But it’s not ‘murder in cold blood,'” Ynet quoted him saying, in reference to remarks made by the mayor of Kafr Kanna about Hamdan’s death. “We definitely must not abandon our security forces who were sent to protect us.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman voiced support Saturday for Aharonovitch’s remarks, saying that “every terrorist who harms civilians should be sentenced to death, and [I] support the Israel Police for acting in this spirit of zero tolerance for terrorism.”

Left-wing politicians, however, leveled blame at Aharonovitch. Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Gal-on said that the police officers involved in the shooting should be investigated, but so should Aharonovitch, “who just last week said that ‘a terrorist who harms civilians should be sentenced to death,’ as the person who gave the seal of approval for murder and a clearly illegal order.”

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