On 15 May, Israeli security forces fatally shot Nadim Nuwara, 17, and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, 16, at a demonstration near the Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia. Four days after the killings, on 19 May, Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine) released footage from security cameras owned by shopkeeper Fakher Zayed that showed the boys walking slowly in a calm scene when they were shot.
Now the Israeli military has ordered Fakher Zayed, the man whose security cameras captured the closed circuit TV footage that shows Israeli security forces shooting the two teenage boys, to dismantle his cameras within 24 hours or face legal proceedings (the footage and an earlier interview with Zayed can be seen in the DCI-Palestine video above).
The Israeli military had already confiscated Zayed’s recording equipment on 22 May, and on 13 June seized all other recording equipment in the area — such as that owned by other shopkeepers. They now demand that Zayed remove his security camera as well, from which a live stream can be watched but not saved for subsequent viewing or examination.
On 22 May, CNN released its own footage from the day’s events showing an Israeli security officer shoot in the direction of Nuwara. The soldier caught firing the gun in that footage was suspended. On 11 June the autopsy on Nuwara was completed. It indicated the boy had been killed by live ammunition, confirming all other physical evidence and eyewitness reports.
In the face of the autopsy and video footage, the Israeli military continues to claim that the footage was doctored and that no live ammunition was fired. It is currently conducting its own investigation into the killings.
“You are nothing”
According to statements given to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and DCI-Palestine, on the afternoon of 17 June, four Israeli military vehicles and more than twenty Israeli soldiers arrived at Zayed’s carpentry shop in Beitunia while he was making deliveries, and warned an unnamed witness, “if [Zayed] is not here in five minutes we are going to burn this carpentry shop down.”
When Zayed returned, the Israeli soldiers “confiscated his identification document, told him and his employees that he was not being arrested but taken for questioning, and drove him to the nearby Ofer military base,” as DCI-Palestine and HRW reported.
At the military base, the military officers repeated their original allegation that his footage was forged and told Zayed that he was “up against a very powerful force.” He said that they told him, “We will squish you like a bug, you are nothing” and threatened to “unleash dogs on my children.”
The videos prompted international attention and outcry. After reviewing the footage, witness statements and photographs, Human Rights Watch called the shootings a “willful killing of civilians” and a “war crime.”
But it must be noted: while the attention these killings garnered is exceptional, the use of lethal force by the Israeli military during demonstrations by Palestinians is not. In February, Amnesty International published “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank,” a report that documents Israel’s use of force against Palestinians protesters. In 2013 alone, for example, 22 people were killed, 14 during demonstrations.
Speaking about his interrogation by the Israeli military, Zayed told Human Rights Watch and DCI-Palestine: “They told me that the video I gave to the press was fabricated, that everything I said and all my testimonies are a lie, that this is a serious violation of the law, and that I made the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] look bad and caused a lot of problems.”
On 13 June, the Israeli military, led by “Sabri” (the same commander that detained Zayed this Tuesday), came to Beitunia and confiscated all video recording equipment in the vicinity of Zayed’s shop.
DCI-Palestine and Human Rights Watch have stated that these actions suggest the military is not conducting “good faith investigations” into the killings.
Israeli impunity has always been guaranteed by the military’s insistence on conducting internal investigations — for most of which the findings have yet to be revealed. Clearly, Zayed’s camera poses a threat to this impunity.