Hebron, Occupied West Bank – A Palestinian human rights organisation is conducting an investigation into whether Israeli soldiers planted a knife on the body of a Palestinian man who was shot dead by an Israeli settler in Hebron on Saturday after the settler claimed that he tried to stab him.
Shawan Jabarin, the general director of Ramallah-based Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, said the evidence was still under investigation. “If it is proven correct that the knife was planted, then this will have significant implications from an international and legal point of view,” Jabarin told Al Jazeera.
“First, there is no justification for killing an unarmed person, so the killing itself is a crime. And secondly, there would be the secondary crime of trying to cover up the killing.”
The Sharabati family who videotaped the shooting of Fadel al-Kawasmeh,18, and the alleged planting of the knife say they are living in fear for their safety.
“The Israeli police raided our apartment, assaulted my daughter and confiscated our smartphones, cameras and video recorders. They warned that if we filmed again, worse would happen to us,” said Zeidan Sharabati, 45, who filmed the video.
“They kept most of our equipment. Only two cameras were returned and all the footage had been deleted. I haven’t slept in nights. We are scared about what the soldiers or settlers might do next,” Sharabati told Al Jazeera.
The video shows Israeli soldiers surrounding Kawasmeh’s body and pushing the settler away, while one of the soldiers hands what appears to be a knife to another soldier, who then places it next to the dead teenager’s body.
As soon as the Israelis found out about the video going viral, they arrested my brother Ahmed, who is YAS' media coordinator. They also threatened to shoot him.
Issa Amro, Youth Against Settlements
The Sharabati family’s nightmare began on Saturday, when Zeidan’s 16-year-old daughter Samar heard a loud argument on Shuhada Street below their apartment. She looked outside to see a settler arguing with a Palestinian.In a matter of seconds, the settler pulled out a gun and shot Kawasmeh dead.
“My daughter didn’t see any knife or any stabbing,” said Sharabati. Most of Shuhada Street is closed to all Palestinians, except for a small section where some Palestinians live.
Before they are allowed to enter the street, they are forced to pass through a metal detector. Kawasmeh had already been allowed to pass by Israeli soldiers.
However, the Israeli military told Al Jazeera that the object seen in the video being placed next to the Palestinian was “a communications device”. The spokeswoman claimed it was like “a walkie-talkie kind of device”. She, nonetheless, did not answer the question as to why it was put there.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Al Jazeera that on Saturday morning in Hebron, a Palestinian “armed with a knife, approached a Jewish civilian with the intent to attack and kill him.
“The civilian responded by shooting … before he could cause any harm.”
Three hours after Kawasmeh was shot dead, 16-year-old Biyan Asaily was also shot dead after she allegedly tried to stab a female border police officer near the Kiryat Arba settlement.
A third Palestinian, 18-year-old Tarek al-Natsheh, was shot dead that night when he also allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier near the Shuhada Street checkpoint.
Hebron, like other cities in the West Bank as well as Jerusalem, has seen a wave of violence in recent weeks.
Triggered last month by Israeli incursions into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, protests against Israel’s ongoing occupation have given way to a spike in violence in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces have used tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators, including children. Since October 1, Israeli army and police have killed at least 52 Palestinians – among them alleged attackers, unarmed protesters and bystanders – while a series of Palestinian attacks have left nine Israelis, some of them soldiers, dead.
“Two Palestinians were killed in September in Hebron, nine in October, and one Palestinian from Hebron was shot dead by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem – all accused of stabbing attacks,” Issa Amro, from the activist group Youth Against Settlement (YAS), told Al Jazeera.
Amro and YAS helped to publish Sharabati’s video on the internet, which has since gone viral. Amro also circulated the video of the shooting of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun, 16, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in September after she allegedly tried to stab a soldier. Amnesty International described Hashlamoun’s killing as ‘extrajudicial execution’.
Palestinian killed near Hebron after clash with police
YAS runs a number of non-violent campaigns against the Israeli occupation, including a media campaign that encourages Palestinians to document human rights abuses by Israeli security forces and settlers against Palestinians.
The organisation said it has paid a high price for its activism, which includes an international campaign to open Shuhada Street to Palestinians, organising home stays and tours of Hebron for foreigners, and rehabilitating Palestinian homes under threat of settler takeover.
“As soon as the Israelis found out about the video going viral, they arrested my brother Ahmed, , who is YAS’ media coordinator,” said Amro. “He was beaten up and taken to an area near one of the Israeli settlements where he was forced to lie on the ground, and was searched and held for three hours. They also threatened to shoot him.”
Amro added: “The Israelis also launched a smear campaign against me warning a number of international organisations not to deal with me, as I was a ‘terrorist’ and ‘provocateur’.”
Israeli rights group B’Tselem has also criticised the actions of Israeli security forces, saying that “law enforcement officers cannot act as both judges and executioners”.
It was referring to the deaths of Palestinians whom human rights organisations say appear to have been victims of extrajudicial killings, including Fadi Alloun, 19, who was shot dead in Jerusalem on October 4, and Basel Sidr, 20, who was shot dead in Jerusalem on October 14.
The group expressed “grave concern that the security forces shot the suspects not to stop them in their tracks, but to kill them”.
“Given politicians’ support of such conduct and the public mood of condoning the killing of Palestinian suspects, such incidents are bound to reoccur,” concluded the B’Tselem press release.