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Israel closes case on killing of Palestinian activist

Dec. 5, 2013 6:22 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 7, 2013 1:40 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's Military Advocate General's Corps said Thursday that it decided to close an investigation into the death of Mustafa Tamimi, who was killed in 2011 after an Israeli soldier fired a tear-gas canister at him from point-blank range.

In a letter to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, Military Advocate for Operational Matters Lt. Col. Ronen Hirsch said that the canister which killed Tamimi was fired "according to the relevant rules and regulations and did not involve any illegality."

The MAG Corps said it accepted the claim of the soldier that he did not see Tamimi while shooting the canister.

The Israeli body said it also relied on expert opinion which stated that the Israeli soldier could not see the Palestinian activist while firing.

"The decision not to file an indictment against the soldier who killed Mustafa Tamimi, nor against his commanders, conveys the indifference of the military law enforcement system to the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, and specifically towards Tamimi's death," B'Tselem said.

"This decision sends Israeli soldiers and officers the unequivocal message that, should they kill unarmed civilians, they will not be held accountable."

The rights group said it filed a complaint with Israel's Military Police Investigations Unit hours after Tamimi was shot, and the fact it took two years to reach a decision "demonstrates the failures of the military investigation system."

B'Tselem rejected MAG Corps explanation that the case was a "complicated operational investigation that poses significant challenges", claiming that the killing of Tamimi was "relatively simple" and "visually well-documented."

"Under such circumstances, it is only a matter of time before yet another unarmed Palestinian civilian is killed in this way. For Palestinians in the West Bank, the decision is a clear message that they cannot expect justice from Israel’s legal system," the group said.

In September, Israel's army closed an investigation into the killing of Bassem Abu Rahmeh, 30, who died after being shot in the chest with a tear gas canister at close range.

The Israeli military's prosecutor general decided that there was a lack of evidence in the case, despite video footage from three different angles which showed that Abu Rahmah did not act violently and did not endanger the soldiers in any way.

On Monday, B'Tselem released video footage of an Israeli soldier deliberately firing tear gas canisters at a Palestinian volunteer in Beit Ummar.

B'Tselem volunteer videographer Muhammad Awad was struck in the chest and treated at hospital following the incident.

"The firing of tear gas canisters directly at individuals is a routine practice by soldiers and border police officers in the West Bank," B'Tselem said following the incident.

"It has already claimed the lives of two people and has injured dozens of others in recent years. The military, however, continues to deny such a practice exists and avoids addressing it systematically."
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