On 8 November, during an arrest raid in the village, Kheir Hamdan, 22, confronted a police vehicle and began to hit it with an object which Israel claimed was a knife. Though the Israeli police released a statement claiming that officers lives were in danger, security camera footage of the killing showed otherwise.
The officers exited the vehicle with guns drawn and one opened fire on Hamdan as he tried to run away, shooting him again after he hit the ground.
After the killing, Palestinian citizens of Israel launched protests across the country and held a general strike that shut down Palestinian areas of present-day Israel.
Waseem Abbas, secretary of the local branch of the Balad political party, says that “the anger is growing” in Kufr Kana. Locals will hold a protest tomorrow afternoon to denounce the justice ministry’s decision.
“People here feel as if the decision [to close the investigation] is like killing the martyr Kheir Hamdan all over again,” Abbas told The Electronic Intifada, adding that it comes just weeks after Israeli police destroyed a home and displaced a local family.
An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians carry Israeli citizenship and suffer from dozens of discriminatory laws that stifle their political expression and access to state resources, such as education and land, according to the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Center.
Referring to the killing of Hamdan, the justice ministry released a statement clearing the officer of accusations of wrongfully killing him.
“In these circumstances, which deal with very quick decision-making, in an incident involving a threat to officers, even a mistaken decision does not constitute a basis for suspecting a criminal offense without proof [of such an offense],” the Hebrew-language statement claimed, as reported by the The Jerusalem Post.
The statement added that the police ”investigation had found no wrongdoing in the evacuation of the wounded Hamdan, whom police picked up and dragged into the van before they drove him to an area hospital,” the Post noted.
Alluding to the recent anti-racism protests held by Ethiopian Jews in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Waseem Abbas argued that Israeli police “only open fire on Arabs.”
At least 51 Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of them youths, have been killed by Israeli police since October 2000, when 13 unarmed protesters were fatally shot during demonstrations across the country.
Just two months after Hamdan was killed, two Palestinians in Rahat, a city in the Naqab (Negev) region of southern present-day Israel, were killed by police, as reported by The Electronic Intifada at the time.
Sami al-Jaar, 22, was fatally struck by a bullet as he stood in front of his home while police clashed with youth across the street on 14 January.
After strikes and protests erupted across the country, Israeli police attacked mourners at al-Jaar’s funeral just five days later. During the ensuing clashes, another Rahat resident, Sami Ziadna, died from excessive tear gas inhalation.
Despite claims of widespread police brutality and the large number of Palestinian citizens of Israel who have died at the hands of the police, a September 2014 report published by Adalah concluded that Israel “provide[s] wide immunity to the police from being held to account, and protects them from disciplinary measures for their brutal acts of violence and repression,” including police slayings.
The report suggests that Mahash, the body within the justice ministry charged with investigating claims of police misconduct, has a poor track record.
From the 11,282 complaints of police misconduct submitted between 2011 and 2013, Adalah found that Mahash closed 93 percent “with or without an investigation.” More alarmingly still, only 3.3 percent led to disciplinary action against police officers and a mere 2.7 percent resulted in prosecutions.
“This grants the police impunity for their actions, and is a factor that shapes the police force’s use of violence against Israeli citizens, particularly against Palestinian citizens,” the Adalah report adds.