Criminal Responsibility: The killing of thirteen Palestinian citizens of Israel in October 2000

Seeds of Peace member Asel Asleh, one of the thirteen Palestinians killed by Israeli police fire in October 2000.


At the beginning of October 2000 13 Arab citizens were killed and hundreds injured in Israel as a result of being shot by the Israeli police. Although it was known that the direct reason for the death cases and the injuries was the opening of fire by the police, the Ministry of Justice’s Police Investigation Unit (Mahash) did not carry out its duty under the law and failed to conduct any serious investigation into any of the killings. This was in spite of Adalah’s approaches in this regard to the Israeli government’s then-Attorney General (Elyakim Rubinstein) and then-Director of Mahash (Eran Shendar), during October 2000 (on 18 October 2000), and at the beginning of November 2000 (on 5 November 2000) demanding the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the killing of 13 Arab citizens by the police.

During October 2000, Mahash did not identify the police officers who were present at the scene of each of the killings. Mahash did not interrogate any police officer in this regard, and did not gather material evidence from the scenes of the killings, such as the firearms of the police officers and the bullets which they fired. Further, following the killings, which were known to have been at the hands of police officers, Mahash did not initiate any autopsy on the bodies of any of the deceased men in order to determine the causes of death and to help in the identification of the killers. Even more severe is the fact that although Mahash was in possession four autopsy reports immediately after the killings at the beginning of October 2000, it did not use the reports in order to advance an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths, or to interrogate those police officers responsible for the deaths.

On 8 November 2000, The Official Commission of Inquiry into the Clashes between Security Forces and Israeli Citizens in October 2000 was appointed. This Commission, known as the Or Commission, recommended in its Report, which was issued on 1 September 2003, that Mahash should continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 13 Arab citizens. Exactly one year later, on 1 September 2004, former Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or, Chairperson of the Commission, sharply criticized the manner of working and omissions of Mahash immediately after the killings at the beginning of October 2000, during the sessions of the Or Commission, and after the publication of the Or Commission Report, stating that:

“In general, Mahash did not collect evidence relating to the events surrounding the killings of the citizens, did not gather evidence at the scene and did not attempt to locate any of the police officers who were involved in the incidents shortly after the incidents occurred … The Commission of Inquiry recommended that Mahash conduct an investigation into a number of incidents in which 13 people died. The intention was that, following the investigation, a decision would be reached over whether indictments should be filed and if so against whom. It is becoming clear that, to date, no conclusion has been reached over whether indictments should be filed and if so against whom. It is becoming clear that, to date, no conclusion has been reached over whether indictments are to be filed in relation to any of the events that Mahash was charged with investigating. The explanation given is that Mahash lacks sufficient personnel, and that only when additional manpower was provided did the pace of the investigation accelerate. In light of the grave results of the events that Mahash is charged with investigating, in light of the fact that the testimonies obtained by investigators on behalf of the Commission and by the Commission itself were always available to everyone, including Mahash investigators, as long ago as when the Commission was performing its work; and in light of the fact that over a year has passed since the Commission made its recommendations, it is regrettable that the Mahash investigation has not accomplished more.”1

Following the Or Commission’s investigations relating to the responsibility of police commanders for the deaths of the citizens, Adalah wrote several times to Mahash, demanding an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of the Arab citizens in October 2000, to include the interrogation of police commanders implicated in the matter who clearly breached criminal law. The Or Commission determined that the opening of fire in all of the death cases was carried out by police officers and that the opening of fire was not legal. In its Report, the Or Commission further pointed to the clear responsibility of commanders and police officers regarding some of the cases in which Arab citizens were killed at the beginning of October 2000, and to the responsibility of the political leadership as follows:

The Responsibility of Alik Ron: Order to Snipers, the Killing of a Citizen and Injuring of Many on 2 October 2000 Alik Ron was Commander of the Northern District in October 2000. In the context of Ron’s responsibility, the Or Commission indicated that he gave orders to snipers open fire in the Umm al-Fahm area on 2 October 2000. The shooting was carried out by three of the snipers simultaneously at the same target. This opening of fire, which was executed in a manner which was illegal and even in contravention of the police force’s own internal by-laws, led to the death of one person - the deceased Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad. The Or Commission determined the responsibility of Alik Ron as follows:

“As Commander of the Northern District of the Israeli Police, he was responsible for the use of snipers to open live fire in the context of the severe clashes between the police forces under his command and the demonstrators on 2 October 2000 in Umm al-Fahm. The opening of fire was carried out without any justification, and led to the injury of at least seven persons, and in one of the cases even led to the death of one person. Thus, he ordered and personally led the opening of fire by snipers in the direction of the stone-throwers, without justification, in a manner which breaches the binding orders of the police governing the use of live fire. In addition to the fact that the opening of fire was carried out without justification, the following actions and omissions should be emphasized:

There was no justification for the manner of opening fire, in which three snipers opened fire simultaneously, each time towards a stone-thrower; From the circumstances as a whole, it is apparent that the opening of fire by the snipers was for the purpose of deterring and dispersing the riots, in a manner which breaches police directives; Before the snipers opened fire, the civilians participating in the clashes were not warned of the intention to use live fire, in a manner which breaches both police by-laws and the imperative to refrain as much as possible from creating unnecessary risks to life and health; After the opening of fire by the snipers, he refrained from ensuring that the opening of fire and its results were documented, despite the fact that such documentation was necessary under the circumstances and according to police by-laws;”

The Responsibility of Moshe Waldman: Order to Open Fire and Causing Death and Injury to Many on 8 October 2000

Moshe Waldman was Commander of the Valleys Area in October 2000. On 8 October 2000 he was responsible for police forces in Nazareth, and ordered them to open fire. The bullets were live. As a result of the opening of fire, the deceased Wissam Yazbak and Omar Mohammad A’kkawi were killed. The Or Commission found a direct link between this opening of fire and the death of Yazbak, and found a reasonable suspicion that this opening of fire caused the death of A’kkawi. Waldman even attempted to thwart the police investigation into this incident:

“As Commander of the Valleys Area of the Israeli police, on 8 October 2000, he was in charge of the police forces in this incident in the area of the Canyon junction in Nazareth, in which two citizens were shot dead and many were injured, five of them by live ammunition, apparently as a result of the opening of fire by the police. In this incident, he ordered the forces to open fire or gave permission for that, without justification, in a manner which breaches the binding directives and by-laws of the police. After the incident, he refrained from conducting a methodical investigation into the incident, in breach of the binding directives and by-laws of the police, and as the circumstances dictated. Subsequently, he closely followed the investigation into the incident which occurred at the Canyon junction on 8 October 2000, and even gave directions to the investigators under his authority, despite the existence of a personal conflict of interest, as someone personally implicated in that incident as the Commander of police forces in the area.”

The Responsibility of Benzi Sau: Order to Snipers on 2 October 2000, the Killing of a Citizen and the Injuring of Many

Benzi Sau was the Commander of the Border Police Northern District in the Israeli police in October 2000. The Or Commission determined his responsibility for opening fire by snipers in the Umm al-Fahm area on 2 October 2000. As a result of this opening of fire, the deceased Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad was killed and many were injured. In this regard, the Or Commission determined that the use of snipers was illegal, and even contrary to the police’s own by-laws:

“As the Commander of the Border Police Northern District in the Israeli police, and as Commander of the area of Wadi ‘Ara during the events of October 2000, on 2 October 2000 during the hours around noon, he was responsible or partially responsible for the unjustified use of live fire by snipers on stone-throwers at the Umm al-Fahm junction. In addition to the fact that the opening of fire itself was unjustified and led to corporal injuries to some persons, the following actions and omissions should be emphasized:

There was no justification for the manner of opening fire, in which three snipers opened fire simultaneously at each shone-thrower; From the circumstances as a whole, it is apparent that the opening of fire by snipers was for the purpose of deterring and dispersing the riots, in a manner which breaches police directives, and without justification; Before the snipers opened fire, the civilians who participated in the clashes were not warned of the intention to use live fire, in a manner which breaches both police by-laws and the imperative to refrain as much as possible from creating unnecessary risks to life and health;”

The Responsibility of Guy Raif: Killing of Citizens and Injuring of Many on 2 October 2000

Guy Raif was Chief of the Misgav Police Station in October 2000. The Or Commission determined his responsibility for the killing of two citizens in the Sakhnin area: the deceased Walid Abdul-Menem Abu Saleh and Emad Farraj Ghanaym. The Or Commission determined that he was in a situation which he was able to prevent, and that he opened live fire on demonstrators, causing the death of the two young men and the injuring of others:

“On 2 October 2000, in the industrial area of Teradyon, he was in a situation which he was able to prevent, in which he faced tens of young men throwing stones. In this incident, he used, among other means, live fire trained at those young men without justification, and by that caused the death of the two civilians and the injuring of other civilians.”

The Responsibility of Rashed Murshid: Death of a Citizen on 1 October 2000

Rashed Murshid was a Border Police officer in October 2000. The Or Commission determined his responsibility for firing rubber bullets at a close range of approximately 15 meters, at demonstrators in Jatt on 1 October 2000. As a result of this opening of fire, the deceased Rami Khatem Ghara was shot in the eye, and died as a result of his injuries. The Or Commission indicated in this context that:

“As a Border Police officer, during the performance of his duty in the incident which occurred in the village of Jatt on 1 October 2000, he fired rubber-coated bullets at close range, around 15 meters, at the upper bodies of the villagers at whom he aimed, without justification and in a manner which contravenes the binding orders of the police governing the safe distance for the firing of rubber-coated bullets, and the duty to fire rubber bullets at the legs only, and while creating a risk of grievous and even fatal injuries, this opening of fire caused the injury of a citizen in the head, and to his death a day later.”

The Responsibility of Ehud Barak: Did not Take Adequate Steps to Prevent or Restrict the Use of Lethal Means by the Police

Ehud Barak was the Prime Minister in October 2000. He was responsible for all assessments of the events at that time, most of them even having been undertaken at his home, including the assessments of events on the evenings of 1 October 2000 and 2 October 2000, together with the police high command. On the morning of 2 October 2000, in an interview on the morning program on Reshet Bet (an Israeli public radio station), Barak said the following:

“In a meeting at my home yesterday which continued past midnight I instructed the Minister of Internal Security and the Israeli police, who, by the way, deserve great praise for the self-discipline which they displayed yesterday during the demonstrations, but I told them that they have the green light to take any action needed to safeguard the rule of law, to maintain public safety and ensure freedom of movement to the citizens of the state throughout the state.”

Regarding Barak, the Or Commission determined that he did not prevent or restrict the use of lethal means in early October 2000, and did not demand information from the police on the killing of Arab citizens by police officers:

“In those days (Barak) also did not take adequate actions to prevent or restrict the use of lethal means by the police, and did not act sufficiently to calm the events while they were happening. This includes his refraining from meeting the Arab leadership in Israel until 3 October 2000, despite the assessment of the intelligence apparatus, which was given to him at his request, that such a meeting, if it were to be held urgently, could significantly calm the events. As Prime Minister of Israel during the events of October 2000, he did not request from the police or any of those responsible for the actions of the police any specific report, full and detailed, and as soon as possible, about the actions of the police in specific incidences in which civilians were killed or grievously injured, or about the reasons, in each such incidence, which lead to the death or corporal injury. Thus, he did not fulfill his duty to act, as soon as possible, to obtain the necessary information in order to take decisions and give rational instructions on how to deal with the events of October 2000 and their outcomes.”

More Information

  • Attorney Hassan Jabareen - +972 (0)52-3228901; Attorney Marwan Dalal - 052-849-8805; Attorney Orna Kohn - 052-849-8808.

    Notes
    1. (Retired) Justice Theodore Or, “A Year After the Report of the Official Commission of Investigation into the Events of October 2000” (Tel Aviv University, 20004), pp. 27-28.

    Related Links

  • The 13 Palestinian Citizens of Israel Killed by Israeli Police Forces in October 2000 (PDF)
  • Law and Politics before the Or Commission of Inquiry (PDF) Marwan Dalal (July 2003)
  • Adalah
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