Israel refuses to release video of Palestinian siblings’ shooting

Israel has not released surveillance footage from the busy checkpoint but pictures circulated by Palestinian photographers and bystanders showed the brother and sister lying side by side, with no soldiers in sight.

A Palestinian woman argues with an Israeli border policeman near the scene where a Palestinian mother of two and her brother where shot dead by Israeli forces near Qalandia checkpoint on  April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Qatana, Palestine // Pressure is growing on Israel to release video footage showing the final moments of a Palestinian mother and her teenage brother shot dead at a checkpoint.

Maram Saleh Hassan Abu Ismail, 23, and Ibrahim Taha, 15, were killed last Wednesday after they became confused and wandered into the wrong lane at the Qalandia crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah, witnesses said. Israeli police insist they were about to carry out a knife attack on forces stationed at the checkpoint.

The siblings were the latest victims of what is widely regarded as Israeli use of excessive force in response to a wave of violence that has killed more than 200 Palestinians and 30 Israelis since October. Israel accuses most of those killed of attacking, or being about to attack, its security forces.

Israel has not released surveillance footage from the busy checkpoint but pictures circulated by Palestinian photographers and bystanders showed the brother and sister lying side by side, with no soldiers in sight.

This week it emerged that the shootings were carried out by private security guards and not the police.

An initial Israeli investigation found that a policeman followed the proper arrest procedure, firing shots in the air, but that the shots fired at the siblings came from guards nearby, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. The report said one of the pair threw a knife at officers.

But the lack of clarity over the circumstances that led to the shootings has sparked outrage and accusations of a cover-up.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called for a United Nations investigation and rights groups demanded Israel release the surveillance footage to show whether the siblings posed any threat.

“The video needs to be released,” said Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group. “Not in order to determine if there was a knife or not, but to show if there was justification, or if the level of threat was high enough to justify killing two people.

“The soldiers and guards should be trained to deal with this incident, they are armed and protected and she was 10-15 metres away.”

A witness said the soldiers shouted at the siblings asking them to go back but it appeared they did not know what to do.

“They appeared confused and approached the lane allocated for cars in the Qalandia crossing. They couldn’t understand the soldiers and they didn’t know what to do.

“They first shot the girl, then it looked like the boy did not know what to do, and tried to turn back, but they shot him as well.”

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the pair ignored requests to stop and continued to approach Israel forces so they were shot.

Israeli security forces released photographs of two new, identical kitchen knives that they said were being carried by the siblings.

For their father Saleh Hassan Mohammed Taha, 61, the fact that the surveillance video has not been released meant Israeli forces were “lying” about what happened.

“Why would she even want to attack soldiers, she has two children, they’re here with me now – there’s no reason, it’s insane,” he said from the family home in the West bank town of Qatana.

“There were no soldiers where she was walking, there’s at least 50 metres between us and them.”

He told The National his son Ibrahim tried to reach his sister after she had been shot to help her.

“They didn’t die immediately, no ambulances were allowed to reach them,” he added.

He said Israeli forces had interrogated him after the shooting and threatened to demolish his house.

The family said Maram had visited the public hospital in Ramallah on the day of the shooting because she had a blocked vein in her leg. She was referred to a hospital in Jeruslem and it was when she was on her way there that she was shot at Qalandia.

Instead of trying to pass through the checking area for pedestrians and bus passengers, she started walking through the bus and car route when she was shot.

The siblings’ deaths came after a noticeable drop in the violence in early April.

But that appears to have been short-lived as last week, a Palestinian from a respected family in Bethlehem blew himself up on a Jerusalem city bus, injuring 20 Israelis.

With little prospect of a future Palestinian state and the ongoing hardship of living under occupation, a recent survey found most young Palestinians support the current uprising as serving the Palestinian cause.

Conducted in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre poll found nearly 60 per cent of Palestinians aged between 15 and 29 supported knife attacks. The rate was 80 per cent in Gaza.

Many believe Israel’s heavy-handed response has only exacerbated the situation.

Dov Khenin, an Israeli opposition member of the Knesset, said he had demanded an urgent investigation into the killings of Maram and Ibrahim.

“Of course I am aware that the soldier at the checkpoint views each Palestinian as a suspect and each movement or gesture as an attempt on his life,” he said. “Such is the daily reality where the ruling authorities are only concerned with preserving the current situation exactly as it is. It is of utmost necessity ... to break the vicious cycle of blood, occupation, war and hatred.”