A familiar narrative unfolded on Monday: Israeli forces killed a Palestinian, and media dutifully published a police spokesperson’s claim that the young man was shot dead during an attempt to attack soldiers with a car.
This was the news given to 27-year-old Mustafa Nimir’s parents by Israeli intelligence, who had summoned the couple to a police station in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday.
But the couple already knew that their son was not attempting an attack when he was killed, and that Mustafa and his brother-in-law, 25-year-old Ali Tayseer Nimir, were bringing home food and baby clothes when their car came under fire.
Sprayed with bullets
Mustafa and Ali were driving home after visiting Mustafa’s older brother when they came under fire. Palestinian youth were confronting raiding Israeli forces in the area at the time.
A Palestinian eyewitness told the Ma’an News Agency that confrontations broke out when Israeli forces raided the street connecting the camp to the neighboring village of Anata.
“The area of Shufat and Anata is surrounded on three sides by Israel’s separation wall – to the west, north and south,” according to Ma’an.
The witness said that dozens of soldiers were in the streets, firing rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters.
“During the clashes, a white Opel Corsa was driving in the area and Israeli forces opened heavy fire on the car,” he told Ma’an, adding that the car was moving at a moderate speed and soldiers were standing to the sides of the street.
After being sprayed with bullets, the driver lost control of the vehicle, and ran into a parked car.
Another camp resident told Ma’an that she was woken up by the shooting and she saw from her balcony that when the white car crashed to a halt, a soldier opened the driver’s side door and demanded that the driver, Ali, who had been shot, get out of the car.
She told Ma’an that she saw the driver get out of the car with his hands up while stating repeatedly, “I didn’t do anything.”
“Israeli soldiers pushed him on the ground, ordered him to take his pants off, and searched him, despite his injuries,” the witness said.
Video of the scene shows soldiers shouting orders at Ali, who emerges from the car with his hands up before lying on the ground:
The witness added that Mustafa’s body was left sitting in the passenger’s seat while Ali was left on the ground for half an hour without receiving medical care before both were taken away in Israeli military vehicles.
Mustafa’s father Talal told Ma’an on Tuesday that “There are no justifications for killing our children.”
“Even if soldiers really did order them to stop the vehicle, why would they immediately start shooting at them?”
Killed on way to bakery, returning from pool party
The incident in Shuafat is similar to the slaying of 22-year-old Anwar Falah al-Salaymeh in nearby al-Ram weeks earlier.
Israeli forces claimed that soldiers fired on a “speeding vehicle heading towards them,” killing al-Salaymeh and seriously wounding one of the other two Palestinians in the car.
“However, the surviving passengers in the car categorically denied that they had attempted to run over the soldiers,” Ma’an reported at the time, “saying that they were heading to a bakery and had been unaware that Israeli forces were deployed in the area.”
And in June, Israeli soldiers in the central West Bank opened fire on a car full of young Palestinians returning from a late-night pool party celebrating Ramadan, killing 15-year-old Mahmoud Badran and injuring four others.
In that case, too, Israel admitted that the youths were “mistakenly hit” while soldiers were responding to reports that Palestinians were throwing rocks and firebombs on a highway used by settlers.
More than 220 Palestinians have been killed since a new phase of violence began last October, many shot dead in what Israel says were attacks or alleged attacks which have killed more than 30 soldiers and civilians.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also called for full investigation of incidents in which Israeli forces have caused death and injury.
And in a rare display of protest, a ranking US Senator, along with 10 members of Congress, called on the State Department to investigate possible extrajudicial executions by Israeli military and police.
Since the year 2000, however, in only a handful of cases were soldiers prosecuted for manslaughter in relation to the slaying of Palestinians, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz recently reported.
Gag order extended
This summer Israel’s justice ministry declined to open an investigation into the killing of a pregnant woman and her 16-year-old brother at the Qalandiya military checkpoint near Ramallah in April, after it was revealed that they were shot dead by a civilian security guard.
A gag order on a police investigation into the incident was just extended for the fourth time, preventing publication of security camera footage of the incident. Israeli police have “released similar tapes in the past and even added subtitles to explain the videos and justify the actions of police officers,” the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported.
“Police have delivered the results of the investigation to prosecutors but in a highly unusual occurrence, did not include a recommendation whether or not to indict any suspects,” according to Haaretz.
Two Palestinian human rights groups are appealing the Israeli justice ministry’s decision to close an investigation into the shooting and killing of Mustafa Khatib, 17, in Jerusalem’s Old City last year.
A number of serious flaws in the probe into the killing “convincingly suggest” that it “was conducted strictly for the sake of appearances,” the rights group Adalah stated.
“In the past 10 months, a number of requests have been submitted to the justice ministry about examining the rules concerning the shooting of assailants,” Haaretz reported last month. “But in all but one incident, the cases have been closed without the unit investigating and questioning the officers.”
Earlier this year, the Israeli rights group B’Tselem said that it would no longer cooperate with the army’s investigations into human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“We will no longer aid a system that whitewashes investigations and serves as a fig leaf for the occupation,” the group’s director, Hagai El-Ad, stated.