Israel kills man on day of sister’s wedding

Man smiles and holds phone against backdrop of mountains

Ahmad Mustafa Erakat was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces at the Container checkpoint near the occupied West Bank city of Abu Dis on 23 June 2020. (Twitter

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian motorist near occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday claiming he was attempting a car-ramming attack, an allegation fiercely rejected by the young man’s relatives.

Ahmad Mustafa Erakat’s family said he had rented a car and was on his way to pick up his mother and sisters from a beauty salon in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem when he was killed.

His family completely denied any suggestion that Erakat was engaged in a violent operation.

They told media that it was the night of his sister’s wedding and that his own wedding was scheduled in coming weeks.

The 26-year-old was killed at the Qidron (Container) checkpoint near the occupied West Bank village of Abu Dis, which controls Palestinian movement between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

On Wednesday, Israeli Border Police released a video said to be of the incident:

The video shows a vehicle driving into a kiosk at the checkpoint, causing someone to fall back with some force, though that person immediately gets back up.

The vehicle’s driver, presumably Erakat, is seen leaving the vehicle, before he’s shot and assumes a fetal position.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld tweeted pictures of the scene on Tuesday and said a female soldier was “lightly injured.” Israeli daily Haaretz said she was transferred to a hospital in Jerusalem.

In another video circulated by local media, Erakat can be seen lying in fetal position for the duration of the 1 minute 16 second footage, still moving:
Another video shows Erakat shirtless and lying on the ground as someone moves his body. Footage then cuts to his corpse covered under a sheet:
His relatives said he was left to bleed for about an hour. Haaretz reported that footage it obtained shows Erakat was left to bleed for “at least 30 minutes.”

No medical assistance is evident in the video.

Quds News Network reported that Israeli forces prevented a Palestine Red Crescent crew from reaching Ahmad to provide emergency treatment.

“When my uncle arrived at the checkpoint barrier, he could see his son Ahmad writhing on the ground,” Erakat’s cousin, Dalal Iriqat, wrote in Haaretz on Wednesday.

“He called out to the soldiers, he begged them, he cried out to them for help, but they offered no mercy. They stood by as Ahmad’s lifeblood left him.”

Call for investigation

Ahmad Erakat was a relative of human rights attorney Noura Erakat and Saeb Erekat, a senior figure in the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.

The PA has long maintained security coooperation with Israeli occupation forces, but recently announced that it was ending the coordination ahead of looming Israeli annexation of more occupied territory.

Noura Erakat said the footage released by Israeli authorities did not show anything to justify her cousin’s killing.

“Palestinians are so securitized as a threat that we can’t make human mistakes, like lose momentary control of our car, press the accelerator in a moment of haste, get in a car accident,” Noura Erakat wrote on Twitter.

“Why would he do this on his sister’s wedding day? Why did the soldiers shoot him lethally? Why did they deny access to paramedics?” she added.

Saeb Erakat, who called for Israeli authorities to release the footage on Tuesday, demanded an international investigation into the incident:

“The car was going at less [than] five kilometers an hour. This is not the speed needed for an attack,” he tweeted.

The Palestinian official also called for an investigation into the killing of Iyad Hallaq.

Hallaq was a 32-year-old Palestinian with autism who was gunned down in May by Israeli police as he pleaded for his life while he was on his way to his special education school in occupied East Jerusalem, in what seems to clearly amount to a war crime.

Saeb Erakat tweeted a picture of the wedding invitation of Iman Erekat, Ahmad’s sister, and a picture of the pair taken earlier that day:

“We are one hundred percent sure he would never do this. Why would he do this on his sister’s wedding day?” Emad Erakat, Ahmad’s cousin, told the publication Middle East Eye.
Israeli media circulated two videos showing Ahmad speaking to the camera about being smeared as a collaborator, which he denies.
There’s no apparent reason to believe that this video is directly related to Ahmad’s killing on Tuesday. Nor do they provide any clear statement of a motive for an alleged attack.

It is also unclear when this footage was taken.

Noura Erakat said the video was about a separate problem and “nothing about cleansing his name or his family honor.”

Wedding to funeral

What was supposed to be an evening of celebration turned into one of mourning as people gathered for Ahmad Erakat’s funeral in Abu Dis:

Community groups in Abu Dis declared a general strike on Wednesday and a state of mourning for the two following days.

The groups said they held Israel’s occupation army fully responsible for his death.

Confrontations erupted between Palestinian protesters in Abu Dis and Israeli occupation forces following Erakat’s killing on Tuesday night:
A fire broke out when Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters in the city:
Israeli police killed a Palestinian man at the same checkpoint in April, claiming he was attempting a car-ramming attack and a stabbing of a soldier.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in circumstances in which the Israeli military said there were attempted attacks, but where no Israelis were injured.

Allegations that victims were engaged in attacks have in some cases turned out to be flat-out lies. In others, human rights organizations have denounced what they call “unlawful” killings.

Palestinians describe them simply as executions or murders.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.