Two years later, Israel’s Military Advocate General rules no regulations were breached when a soldier fatally shot Mustafa Tamimi with tear gas from close range. This decision sends Israeli soldiers and officers the unequivocal message that, should they kill unarmed civilians, they will not be held accountable.
The Israeli Military Advocate General (MAG) announced Thursday that it has closed the investigation into the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Tamimi died almost exactly two years ago, on December 10, 2011, after being hit by a tear gas canister shot by IDF soldiers at close range during a demonstration in the village. He was critically injured at the protest, and died the next day at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.
According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the MAG claims the canister that killed Tamimi was fired “according to the relevant rules and regulations and did not involve any illegality.” It accepted the soldier’s claim that he didn’t see Tamimi when shooting from the military jeep and further relied on expert opinion that determined the soldier could not have seen Tamimi while shooting.
How could it possibly be in line with regulations for a soldier to fire any weapon without having a clear line of sight, especially during a protest?
According to B’Tselem, Israeli military orders officially forbid shooting tear gas canisters directly at people. While military officials regularly cite this position in response to B’Tselem’s queries, in practice such shooting continues unabated.
This decision follows another similarly infuriating decision in September to close the investigation into the April 2009 killing of Bassem Abu Rahme in Bil’in, who was also hit by tear gas canister. In that case, the MAG cited lack of evidence despite clear video footage of the shooting (which appears in the award-winning documentary “5 Broken Cameras“).
Just last week, a volunteer B’Tselem videographer had his camera rolling when an IDF officer shot him in the chest with a tear gas canister in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar. In that case, despite the direct trajectory, he was only lightly injured.
Last July, B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli was shot in the leg by a rubber-coated bullet at relatively close range while documenting the weekly protest in the village of Nabi Saleh, the same village Tamimi is from.
To the best of B’Tselem’s knowledge, none of the responsible parties – be it commanders in the field or the OC Central Commander – have taken action to stop this practice, nor do they even admit to the problem. The decision in the Tamimi case is a direct continuation of this policy. It should also be noted that the military system decided to deal with the Tamimi case solely on the criminal track, even though it could have also taken disciplinary measures against the soldier and the commanders, clarified the rules of engagement and taken aggressive action to educate troops serving in the West Bank. None of this took place.
B’Tselem says it will demand to see all the materials related to the investigation in order to continue its efforts to assure the Tamimi family finds justice.
Nabi Saleh will be holding a demonstration this Saturday to mark two years since Tamimi’s death and four years since residents began regular protests against the occupation and the separation barrier built on their lands.
A previous version of this post stated that the IDF didn’t open an investigation into the death of Bassem Abu Rahme. It has been corrected to reflect that an investigation was opened, but closed without indictment citing lack of evidence.