Brother and sister slain at checkpoint were executed, Palestinians say

Qalandiya checkpoint after two Palestinian siblings were slain by Israeli forces on 27 April.

Shadi Hatem APA images

Israeli forces killed a young woman and her 16-year-old brother at a military checkpoint on Wednesday and denied emergency medics access to the siblings.

Israel claimed the pair were killed during an attempted attack on soldiers, but eyewitnesses disputed this version of events.

Police told the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz that “the two were ordered to stop several times but continued to approach officers and guards stationed at a drive-through checkpoint not intended for pedestrians.”

“According to the police, as the two approached, the woman’s hand was buried inside her bag and [the boy’s] hand was behind his back. The two eventually heeded the police’s call, stopping a short distance from the officers and turning away, but the woman then spun back around and pulled out the knife, throwing it directly at one of the officers. Police and security guards then shot the two,” the paper added.

In a mobile phone video taken at the scene, an eyewitness describes the shooting of the boy after the slaying of the woman:

“He touched the woman and then they shot him,” the eyewitness says, as additional shots ring out.

Israeli police released a photo of two knives it said were carried by the woman, and a switchblade carried by her brother. The knives appear clean and no Israelis were reported injured during the incident.

Indications of execution

Statements made by an Israeli spokesperson and eyewitness testimony suggest that the siblings, Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, a 23-year-old mother of two small children, reportedly five months pregnant, and Ibrahim Salih Hassan Taha, may have been executed.

Israeli army spokesperson Peter Lerner tweeted that Abu Ismail was “shot by Border Police before she could carry out the attack,” indicating that the woman didn’t pose any immediate threat to anyone’s life when she was killed.

Witnesses told the Ma’an News Agency that “the two were apparently unable to understand Israeli officers yelling in Hebrew, and stopped walking.”

“Witnesses said it appeared that Ibrahim attempted to grab his sister’s hand and move away from the officers, when they opened fire on her. Maram fell to the ground and when Ibrahim attempted to aid her, he was shot in his tracks,” Ma’an added.

“[Maram] had reportedly obtained a permit from the Israeli authorities to enter Jerusalem for the first time when she was crossing on Wednesday,” the agency stated.

Eyewitnesses told Palestinian media that Israeli forces fired a barrage of bullets at the pair – “more than 15 rounds into the woman’s body, confirming her death,” the Ma’an News Agency reported.

A witness named Ahmad Taha told Ma’an that “Israeli officers approached the two after they had been shot and on the ground before opening fire on them again ‘to ensure that they were dead,’ adding that the officers ‘could have moved the two away without opening fire.’”

The man alleged that the knives police said were carried by Maram and Ibrahim were planted.

Medical care denied

The Palestine Red Crescent Society told Ma’an that Israeli forces denied medics access to the woman and child.

Video from the scene shows Israeli forces turning away a Palestine Red Crescent medic and preventing a cameraman from filming.

A brother of Maram and Ibrahim told Haaretz that he doesn’t believe his sister intended to carry out an attack, saying that she was on her way to a doctor’s appointment when she was shot dead.

“We have no details about what transpired and no one briefed us, but I don’t believe this whole terrorist attack story,” Hassan Taha said.

“She was probably lost, or didn’t understand what was going on at the roadblock, and the soldiers shot her and my brother,” he added.

An uncle of the siblings told media that the pair were killed “in cold blood.”

Spokespersons with the Palestinian factions condemned the slayings, with Islamic Jihad calling the deaths an “execution” and Hamas stating that the “crime would not go without punishment.”

More than 130 Palestinians have been shot dead in the course of what Israel claims were attacks or attempted attacks since the beginning October last year, when direct confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli forces surged. Dozens more were shot dead during protests.

Approximately 30 Israelis were killed during that same period.

Human rights groups have condemned the use of lethal violence as a matter of first resort, saying it amounts to an unofficial shoot-to-kill policy encouraged by Israel’s top leadership.

Executioner celebrated

An Israeli soldier caught on video executing a wounded Palestinian man in late March has become a national hero in the country and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for leniency as he faces manslaughter charges.

The surge in violence has ebbed since the beginning of this year, with the number of deadly incidents decreasing.

A Palestinian youth from Aida refugee camp died of his wounds last week after an explosive device he was allegedly carrying set off on a Jerusalem bus, injuring approximately 20.

And a Palestinian from al-Arroub refugee camp was shot dead earlier this month after he allegedly attempted to hit a soldier in the head with an ax.

Israel’s military establishment has credited the decline in attacks to coordination between the army and the Palestinian Authority security forces, as well as “improved … capabilities to learn of assailants, especially on social media.”

Most attacks have been waged by individuals or small groups of Palestinians acting independently of any command from armed groups, targeting Israeli occupation forces at checkpoints and settlements.

Wednesday’s killings occurred at Qalandiya checkpoint, where Israeli forces prevent free movement between the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Jerusalem.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.