JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Eyewitnesses to the killing of 27-year-old Mustafa Nimr -- shot dead early Monday morning when Israeli forces showered the vehicle he was travelling in with live fire
-- have denied the Israeli police’s narrative that claimed Mustafa and the driver of the vehicle were attempting a car ramming attack.
Israeli forces also shot and injured the driver, Ali Tayser Nimr, Mustafa’s 25-year-old brother-in-law. His condition was initially reported as moderate and he was evacuated by Israeli ambulances to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. A spokesperson for the hospital told Ma’an they were looking into his medical condition.
The two came under live fire while driving near clashes that erupted between local youth and Israeli soldiers during a military raid in Shufat refugee camp.
Mustafa Nimr’s grieving mother told Ma’an hours after her son was killed that on Sunday evening, Mustafa and Ali left the house in Shufat refugee camp, located just north of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, to visit Mustafa’s big brother.
“Mustafa called me at midnight to tell me that he and Ali were still at his brother’s house.”
Hours later, at 4 a.m. on Monday, Mustafa was killed.
His mother was shocked by the news. “(When I spoke to Mustafa on the phone), he said they were bringing us food and new clothes for Ali’s daughter,” she told Ma’an, rejecting the claim that the two were planning a car ramming attack on Israeli soldiers.
She called the Israeli police narrative “an excuse to justify killing Palestinians.”
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri had said that officers completed an “activity” in the camp, and as they were leaving the camp a car “approached them swiftly and seemingly attempted to run over officers.”
Before they fired, Israeli officers "started procedures to arrest the two suspects,” who were in the car, but the Palestinian youth “ignored the orders and continued to drive swiftly towards the officers apparently with the intention to harm them,” al-Samri said.
Pictures taken from inside the car after the incident show the back seat sprayed with blood -- shopping bags and loaves of bread still sitting on the seat.
Mustafa’s father said that he rushed to the hospital as soon as he heard about his son’s killing, but Israeli police refused to let him inside or provide any information regarding Mustafa or Ali.
A local Palestinian and witness to the shooting who asked to remain anonymous told Ma’an that clashes broke out when Israeli forces raided Anata Street, the road connecting Shufat refugee camp to the neighboring village of Anata. The area of Shufat and Anata is surrounded on three sides by Israel’s separation wall -- to the west, north, and south.
He told Ma’an that tens of Israeli soldiers flooded the streets and fired rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian youth in the area.
“During the clashes, a white Opel Corsa was driving in the area and Israeli forces opened heavy fire on the car,” he said.
He added that the car was driving at medium speed and Israeli soldiers were standing to the sides of the street. After being showered with live ammunition, the driver, Ali, lost control of the car, which swerved to the side and crashed into a parked car.
Another eyewitness to the shooting, Nazik Ghaith, resides on Anata Street. Ghaith said she heard the sound of gun shots while she was sleeping and went out to the balcony to see tens of Israeli soldiers surrounding a car open heavy fire on the vehicle.
After the car crashed into the parked car, Ghaith said she saw one Israeli soldier open the driver side door and demand that Ali, who had just been shot, step outside while threatening to shoot him again.
She saw Ali step out, putting his hands up, saying repeatedly, “I didn’t do anything.”
“Israeli soldiers pushed him on the ground, ordered him to take his pants off, and searched him, despite his injuries,” Ghaith recalled.
She said that Mustafa’s dead body was left sitting in the front passenger's seat while Ali was left injured on the ground for 30 minutes without being provided medical care, before two Israeli military vehicles arrived at the scene. One military vehicle took Mustafa’s body, while the other evacuated Ali.
Nimr's death brought the death toll of Palestinians killed since October to 221, when a wave of violence swept across the occupied West Bank that has also left some 32 Israelis dead.
The violence against Israelis has mostly been characterized by small-scale attacks carried out by individual Palestinians, usually against uniformed Israeli soldiers and police.
However, international bodies and rights groups have challenged Israel's narrative in a number of the killings that they say have amounted to “extrajudicial executions,” as they were carried out even when there was no threat of immediate danger.
Fifteen-year-old Mahmoud Raafat Badran was killed
in similar circumstances to Mustafa in June, when Israeli soldiers “showered" the vehicle he was travelling in with live fire while he and his friends were driving near a stone throwing incident.
Despite Israeli police later admitting to "mistakenly" killing the teenager who had nothing to do with the stone-throwing, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said: “If it were not for the difficult security situation, which is entirely the result of incitement and Palestinian terror, Israel would not be forced to use force in order to protect its civilians.”
“This targeting has taken the form of injuries and arbitrary killings by the use of live ammunition by the Israeli army in the context of arrest campaigns, military raids, and random wide searches which usually trigger clashes,” the statement said.
BADIL’s statement also highlighted a recent Israeli military incursion in the Hebron-area refugee camp al-Fawwar that lasted some 20 hours, during which an unarmed Palestinian teen was shot dead
and dozens others were hospitalized.
“The escalating use of excessive force against Palestinians by Israel is alarming and illegal, as under international law,” BADIL said in their statement.
“Providing that the Israeli military forces are not the initiators, the use of firearms is only permitted as a last resort in cases of imminent threat of death or serious injury or for self-defense, and the use of force must be strictly necessary and proportionate. Moreover, firearms should only be used when other measures have proved insufficient.”