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Deadly Umm al-Hiran raid reenacted to investigate potential police misconduct

March 17, 2017 5:20 P.M. (Updated: March 19, 2017 7:31 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma’an) -- The ‘Machash’ unit within Israel’s Ministry of Justice, which serves to scrutinize and investigate Israeli police misconduct, re-enacted on Wednesday evening the events that led up to the shooting and killing of Yaqoub Abu al-Qian by Israeli police during a January demolition raid in the Negev-area Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran.

In one of several contested claims by Israeli police over the circumstances of the killing, the police and Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan claimed that 47-year-old Abu al-Qian, a local math teacher, was driving toward police without his headlights on with the intention of committing a car-ramming attack against Israeli forces.

However, a video released by Al Jazeera last month shows clearly that Abu al-Qian did indeed have his headlights on before his car rammed into a group of police, killing one policeman.

Meanwhile, numerous eyewitnesses reported that Israeli police fired at Abu al-Qian while he was driving normally, which then caused him to spin out of control and crash into the Israeli officers.

Family members also firmly denied Abu al-Qian intended to carry out an attack and refuted claims by Erdan and police spokespersons that the man was influenced by the so-called Islamic State.

Israeli police footage published in January by Haaretz also appeared to show police officers shooting at Abu al-Qian as he was driving at a slow pace, and only several seconds after the gunfire does his car appear to speed up, eventfully plowing through police officers, raising questions on whether the incident was intentional or the result of Israeli gunfire.

In Wednesday night’s reenactment, Israeli authorities used Abu al-Qian’s white Toyota SUV with the headlights turned on.

The Machash reportedly said they carried out the reenactment in an “attempt to clarify the reason why Israeli policemen opened fire on Abu al-Qian."

The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (MUSAWA) had appealed to Machash previously, demanding to reenact the events and examine Israeli police weapons used in the events in an independent lab, the group told Ma’an.

MUSAWA had also delivered a list to Machash with the names of eyewitnesses and complainants from Israeli police violence during the demolition of 12 homes in Umm al-Hiran that took place on the same day that Abu al-Qian was killed.

The outrage following Abu al-Qian’s and the violent raid in Umm al-Hiran, as well as demolitions in the Palestinian town of Qalansawe in central Israel has put the issue of home demolitions in Israel in the limelight since the beginning of the year.

Rights groups have meanwhile claimed that the demolitions in Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.

Umm al-Hiran is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state, with more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins residing in unrecognized villages.

The unrecognized Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel. Now more than 60 years later, the villages have yet to be recognized by Israel and live under constant threats of demolition and forcible removal.

The Arab Joint List in Israel's Knesset have described the actions by Israeli authorities as "a terrorist and bloody invasion that brings to mind the scenes of displacement and destruction of Arab villages during the Nakba in 1948." Some 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced during the creation of the state of Israel in what Palestinians call the Nakba -- “catastrophe” in Arabic.

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