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Prosecutors clear suspects in deadly shooting of Arab Lod man during May riots

Four suspects ruled out as culprits in death of Mussa Hassuna, while a fifth is off the hook due to uncertainty and claims that he was acting in self-defense

Malek Hassuna (L) carries a picture of his late son Mussa, who was shot dead on May 10, as he sits with Effi Yehoshua, brother of Yigal Yehoshua, killed on May 11, in Lod on August 18, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Malek Hassuna (L) carries a picture of his late son Mussa, who was shot dead on May 10, as he sits with Effi Yehoshua, brother of Yigal Yehoshua, killed on May 11, in Lod on August 18, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Five Jewish Israeli men who were investigated in the death of an Arab Israeli man during violent clashes in Lod in May were cleared of wrongdoing on Thursday.

Mussa Hassuna, 32, was shot dead on May 10 in Lod, as violent Jewish-Arab clashes shook the city in the early days of the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Five Jewish suspects were arrested on suspicion of being involved in Hassuna’s death, but were released on bail shortly afterward. The men claimed that they were acting in self-defense after an Arab mob descended upon them as violence overtook the flashpoint mixed city in central Israel.

On Thursday, prosecutors informed the suspects that they were closing the case against them. Four of the men were ruled out as the culprits who fired the bullet that killed Hassuna in May. The fifth individual could not be definitively ruled out, but prosecutors noted that there were many shell casings at the scene of the incident belonging to guns that were never identified, and therefore it could not determine with the required level of confidence as to who fired the bullet.

Prosecutors also noted that they accepted the testimony of the men that they were acting in self-defense amid the clashes, which included multiple gunshots, rock-throwing and the hurling of firebombs in central Lod.

“The suspects attempted to disperse the rioters by firing into the air,” noted prosecutors in their decision on Thursday. “The darkness that prevailed at the site, and the fact that they repeatedly tried to call the police — who in the face of the large number of incidents were unable to respond to the difficult situation on the ground — also added to the feeling of uncertainty and fear.”

Prosecutors said that all of the circumstances “led to a concrete and real fear of injury, and to the conclusion that the shooting that took place during this incident was carried out in self-defense.”

Arab residents of Lod and activists protest against the death of Mussa Hassuna, who was killed during clashes between Jews and Arabs, outside the District Court in Lod, on May 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Malek Hassuna, the father of Mussa, told the Haaretz daily that he was angry but not surprised that prosecutors cleared the suspects.

“It was clear they would close the case, they never intended to arrest anyone from the beginning,” he said. “When [Jewish Israeli] Yigal Yehoshua was killed [a day later], they arrested half the city and indicted many people… why didn’t they indict anyone for killing my son?”

Malek told Haaretz that he intends to file a lawsuit in an international court in order to determine who was responsible for his son’s death.

In July, Malek spoke in the Knesset and begged for justice for Mussa. In September, he told AFP that he didn’t believe police were taking the case seriously. “Israel makes a distinction that it’s very normal for an Arab to die in cold blood,” he claimed.

More than 100 people took part in a rally in late May calling for justice for Hassuna. His relatives said that he was not involved in the violent clashes and was standing some distance away from the unrest when he was shot. Joint List MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi took part in the rally.

“When the murder victim is an Arab citizen, the murderers earn the full backing of the law enforcement and legal systems,” Odeh said at the time.

May saw massive riots break out in many so-called mixed Israeli cities, home to large numbers of both Arabs and Jews, during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Though not unprecedented, the internecine violence was some of the worst in Israel’s history, bringing to the surface long-simmering conflicts between Arab and Jewish Israelis.

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