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Video emerges on killing in Umm al-Hiran, as family awaits return of slain Bedouin's body

Jan. 21, 2017 12:03 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2017 7:41 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma'an) -- A new video has emerged capturing the killing of Umm al-Hiran resident and local teacher Yaqoub Abu al-Qian who was shot dead by Israeli police on Wednesday, while his family continues to await the return of his body.

Ma’an obtained a video on Saturday filmed by a resident of Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran showing the moment when al-Qian was shot, as dozens of gunshots are heard, with Israeli police yelling “gunshots” while heading to the source.

Israeli police claimed that the math teacher was carrying out a vehicular attack, which left 34-year-old Israeli police officer Erez Levi dead, though a number of witnesses and political leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel who were present at the scene have disputed Israeli security forces’ version of events, saying that police officers opened fire on Abu al-Qian despite him not representing a threat, which caused him to lose control of his vehicle and fatally hit Levi, also injuring a number of other policemen.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld claimed immediately after the shooting that Abu al-Qian was “a terrorist from the Islamic Movement," suggesting that he was possibly influenced by the so-called Islamic State. However locals have rejected the accusations, insisting that the man was simply a high school teacher, respected and revered in the community.

As a result of testimonies and reports that have emerged calling into question the police's statements, the family has demanded an investigation into his death, as NGO Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who is representing Abu al-Qian’s family, has also questioned the circumstances Abu al-Qian's death.

Israeli police footage published by Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday appeared to show police officers shooting at 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.

Abu al-Qian’s autopsy report was also released on Friday, detailing that the teacher had been killed by two bullets fired at his vehicle, the first of which struck him on his right knee, and the second in a main artery in the chest area, before he bled to death.

Israeli Channel 10 meanwhile reported that Abu al-Qian’s knee injury led to the acceleration of his vehicle after his leg pressed against the gas pedal, and added that he had lost large amounts of blood, which would have made it impossible to save him.

Nevertheless, they reported that he had been left to bleed for a half and hour as ambulances were prevented from providing him first aid.

Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli police pulled an injured Abu al-Qian from his vehicle at the time and shot him another time to confirm his death, seeming to contradict the autopsy report that stated he had bled to death.

Meanwhile, the family of Abu al-Qian have continued to refuse conditions set by Israeli police in order to receive the slain body of Abu al-Qian.

The Israeli police have refused to release his body unless the family agrees to limiting the attendants to the funeral to 50, holding it at night, and launching it from his mother’s home in Hura village, and not the ruins of his home in Umm al-Hiran, which was demolished following an Israeli demolition campaign in the village in the wake of violent clashes that erupted the day he was killed.

Relative Najeh Abu al-Qian told Ma’an on Friday that Israeli police has attempted to exert pressure on the family to accept the conditions, but the family had continued to refuse.

Meanwhile, members of Israel's Knesset Ahmad Tibi and Usama Saadi of the Joint List introduced a new bill on Thursday proposing a ten-year freeze on demolitions of homes built by Palestinians in Israel without government-issued permits, in order to develop a comprehensive zoning and development plan.

“It’s not an accident that there are tens of thousands of homes with demolition orders against them” in Palestinian communities in Israel, Tibi told Israel Radio. “It’s not in their genes. There are no development plans, no zoning plans, no expansion.”

Rights groups have long claimed that demolitions in Bedouin villages unrecognized by Israel were a central 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.

Groups such as the Negev Coexistence and Civil Equality Forum and the Coalition of Women for Peace placed responsibility for the deadly violence squarely on the Israeli government.

"The direct responsibility for today’s dangerous escalation and bloodshed at the village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev rests upon those who took the decision to destroy a Bedouin village which had existed for decades, completely raze and wipe it off the face of the earth, to expel the residents and establish a Jewish ‘community’ in its place,” Gush Shalom quoted the groups as saying at the time.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of the Middle East division of NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that the events at Umm al-Hiran followed “a pattern of excessive force used by the Israeli police.”

“As in the West Bank, Israel discriminates against Bedouins and Palestinians more generally inside its borders in its planning policies, which seek to maximize control of land for for Jewish communities. Israel should investigate the killings, hold those responsible to account, and abandon the discriminatory plan to raze Umm al-Hiran."
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