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IDF closes probe into killing of Mustafa Tamimi in Nabi Saleh

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.

Mustafa Tamimi, a second before he was shot.  The weapon and tear gas canister are circled in red (Photo: Haim Scwarczenberg)

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.

Spent tear gas cartridge lies on the street in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

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.

Related:
Mustafa Tamimi: A murder captured on camera
IDF closes investigation into Bil’in killing without indictment
WATCH: Israeli forces shoot B’Tselem spokesperson during West Bank protest

Correction:
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.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Richard Lightbown

      Nothing new here. Israel has been allowing, nay encouraging its soldiers to commit heinous crimes, including murder, for decades while claiming to be moral and righteous at the same time. And the situation will never change as long foreign governments remain under the control of the Zionist lobby. Then Zionists dare to winge about the American Studies Association decision. Plus ça change.

      Reply to Comment
    2. sh

      Routine now, appalling that it could become so. How to stop the rot? We are too far gone to do it ourselves.

      Reply to Comment
    3. “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?” : In military action it would not be untoward. In the present case, the jeep is exiting as the canister is fired, with no threat to the jeep at all. Exiting means crowd control is done, so there is no reason to fire. In a military action, however, rear fire is just part of the game.

      The IDF will avoid any internal legal decision (such as that of a MAG) which removes flexibility of engagement required in combat, with protest seen as a precursor to combat. They don’t want to place handcuffs on themselves, for the good of their soldiers, for the good of all. With no civil feedback (“you killed a citizen”), there is no outside law to curtail this escape clause. It is an escape clause: deaths will happen, but not weekly thereby. It becomes a matter of what the polity will bear–but that is not how the law works.

      Reply to Comment
    4. tod

      Disgust, profound disgust.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ken Kelso

      And when Palestinian terrorists murder Israeli civilians, Mairav Zonszein says nothing.

      http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=9965
      Abbas in 2005: Prisoners were following PA orders to kill
      by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
      Oct. 29, 2013

      Abbas in 2005: Release all prisoners including murderers
      because it was the PA who sent them to kill

      Abbas: “I demand [release of] prisoners because they are human beings, who did what we, we, ordered them to do.
      We – the [Palestinian] Authority.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard Lightbown

        Perhaps you might come back to the topic in hand and give us your opinion on the apparent fact that the IDF regulations permit a soldier to kill an unarmed civilian with impunity.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Ronit

      On the other hand consider the aerodynamics of a tear gas canister. It would be very difficult to hit anything that one aimed at. Therefore it would be reasonable to assume that it was not a deliberate hite.

      Now consider the aerodynamics of an accusation. It’s very easy to hit any target that you wish. If Mairav Zonstein wishes to deliberately target the IDF she just jots a few words on her computer and submits it. Proof and truth is not needed – just misdirection and dishonesty.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        ok, lets be charitable and say that the soldier wasn’t actually aiming for his face (which I find dubious, since I’ve seen these things get fired and they fly pretty straight).

        EVEN if the soldier didn’t intend to hit Mustafa, he still fired HORIZONTALLY and WITHOUT AWARENESS. This, by the IDF’s own admission/rules of engagement is PROHIBITED. By the IDF dismissing this, they are effectively giving a green light to every commander and soldier to fire tear gas RPGs directly at protestors.

        Reply to Comment

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