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Court drops charges against Israeli security guards over killing of Palestinian siblings

Oct. 27, 2016 2:54 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 28, 2016 7:21 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli court dropped charges on Wednesday against two Israeli security guards who shot and killed two Palestinian siblings at a checkpoint in April, ruling that there was not sufficient evidence that they had acted improperly.

A private security contractor shot and killed Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, 23, and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim Salih Hassan Taha on April 27 at the Qalandiya checkpoint between the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, after Israeli forces said Abu Ismail, who was five months pregnant, threw a knife in the direction of Israeli forces while she was some 20 meters away from them.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the prosecutors in the case said that Abu Ismail threw a knife at Israeli forces but missed, while her brother tried to pull her away.

The prosecution further claimed that Taha had one hand in his pocket while approaching the checkpoint, arousing “reasonable suspicion” that he was attempting to commit an attack. Israeli forces also allegedly found a knife on Taha’s body after he was killed, although at no point prior to being shot did he attempt to use it.

However, witnesses said at the time that the two siblings posed no threat when they were killed, as they mistakenly entered the wrong part of the checkpoint and did not understand Israeli soldiers speaking to them in Hebrew.

One witness further said that Israeli forces planted knifes on the scene.

Israeli news outlet Ynet quoted the Israeli state’s attorney’s office as saying that the guards’ actions represented a “clear-cut” case of “self-defense,” while the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Ministry of Justice exonerated one of the guards on the grounds that the charges against them were “baseless,” and ruled that there was a lack of evidence to contradict the other guard’s claim that he had felt threatened.

Meanwhile, the Times of Israel reported that Israeli police has refused to release security camera footage of the case, despite demands by the Abu Ismail family and several Israeli media outlets.

Abu Ismail and Taha are two of 235 Palestinians to have been killed by Israelis since a wave of unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October 2015. Dozens of Palestinians have been shot at military checkpoints during this time, included at least five at the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Some 34 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in the same time period.

Israel's excessive use of force against Palestinians has brought allegations from local and international NGOs, senior UN officials and foreign leaders, and prominent US congressmen that Israeli forces regularly carry out unlawful killings.

Rights groups have disputed Israel's version of events in a number of cases when Palestinians were killed, denouncing what they have termed as a "shoot-to-kill" policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner -- amid a backdrop of impunity for Israeli forces who have committing the killings.
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