The wife of a Palestinian man shot dead by soldiers during what the IDF said was an attempted car-ramming has insisted she and her husband did not accelerate toward troops at a roadblock, and two eyewitnesses have backed up her claim that no soldiers were in front of their car when the shooting started, Haaretz reported Sunday.
Osama Mansour, 42, was killed last week as he drove his wife to their home in the West Bank town of Biddu. The couple passed through a temporary IDF roadblock that had been set up as a major security operation was underway in the area, but soldiers fired at the car, fatally wounding Mansour, a vegetable seller. His wife, Sumaya, a seamstress, was lightly injured.
Sumaya Mansour told Haaretz that the couple had gone to a clinic in the town of Bir Nabala as she did not feel well. On their way back home, as they drew close to the village of Al Jib, they encountered the roadblock. She said the checkpoint consisted of some military vehicles parked on a traffic island in the middle of the road.
As they approached, the soldiers flashed the lights of one of the vehicles, apparently a jeep, at the approaching car, indicating that they should stop. Sumaya said they stopped the car and turned off the engine, as requested to do by the soldiers.
An eyewitness, who lives in the area and who, according to the report, has no prior acquaintance with the Mansours, told Haaretz that there were several military vehicles in the area and that some of the soldiers were arguing loudly with the driver of the jeep.
After questioning the couple about their movements the soldiers told them to continue on their way, Mansour said. They started the car and drove off, passing the jeep and the soldiers on the right, the correct side of the road for their direction of travel.
They had not traveled more than a few meters before the soldiers opened fire at the rear of the car, the witness said.
The eyewitness, whose name was not given in the report, told Haaretz that he heard the soldiers shouting at the vehicle, “Stop, stop.” He, along with another eyewitness, both told the B’Tselem rights group that they did not see any soldiers in front of the Mansours’ car when they at first moved off.
When the shooting started, Osama Mansour increased his speed, at which point more soldiers ahead of them also opened fire, Sumaya said, but stressed that the soldiers were not in their way and that the car was traveling in the shoulder on the right-hand side of the road.
Mansour said as they pulled away from the soldiers she realized she was injured in her back from shrapnel while her husband shouted that he had been hit.
“After a moment I saw that he was driving in zig-zags and I said to him, ‘Why are you not driving properly?’ Then I saw him fall into the space between the driver’s seat and my seat and he didn’t say anything,” she recalled.
The injured woman was able to take control of the vehicle and continue driving until she saw another car and stopped, asking the occupants for help to get her husband to the hospital. Mansour stressed that the soldiers did not follow them after the shooting.
The eyewitness said the car had hit the barrier on the side of the road several times before coming to a stop some 200 meters (656 feet) from the soldiers. It was only after 15 minutes that the soldiers approached the vehicle and secured the area, he said.
Osama Mansour died in the hospital from a head injury while his wife was lightly injured from shrapnel and released later that day. The couple has five children.
Usually, in cases of suspected attacks, security forces will pursue a fleeing vehicle to detain the occupants, dead or alive, Haaretz reported. Osama Mansour’s body was not seized and his wife has not been called in for questioning, the report said.
Sumaya Mansour told a similar version of events to Palestinian TV shortly after the shooting, last Tuesday.
The IDF, in response to the Haaretz report, said “a military police investigation was opened into the incident and, when concluded, its findings will be handed over to the military prosecution for consideration.”
At the time of the shooting, the army said that soldiers were manning a roadblock that was set up in order to enable other forces in the area to operate without interruption from passing traffic.
Soldiers at the checkpoint identified a car that stopped at the checkpoint and “suddenly accelerated toward another group of soldiers operating in the area,” which endangered the lives of the troops, the army said.
The incident came amid an uptick in violence in the West Bank in recent weeks, with an increasing number of rock-throwing attacks and firebombings along highways, as well as a number of attacks on Palestinians.