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Joint List MK calls for autopsy of Israeli officer killed in Umm al-Hiran raid

Jan. 25, 2017 9:19 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 28, 2017 5:00 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma'an) -- Palestinian member of the Knesset Talab Abu Arar raised doubts on Wednesday about Israeli police’s version of events regarding the death of an policeman during a demolition raid earlier this month, implying that the officer may have been killed by friendly fire instead of a vehicular attack.

Israeli police officer Erez Levi was killed last week under widely contested circumstances during a violent demolition raid in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev that left more than a dozen Palestinian structures razed to the ground.

While Israeli authorities have claimed that Umm al-Hiran resident Yaqoub Abu al-Qian was shot and killed while carrying out a deliberate vehicular attack which killed Levi, numerous eyewitnesses have insisted that the local math teacher was posing no threat to anyone when Israeli police opened fire at his vehicle, causing him to lose control of the car and ram into officers.

Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that a senior police spokesman declined to say whether an officer wounded during the incident was run over Abu al-Qian’s vehicle or shot by other policemen, raising new questions about the police account of the raid.

Eyewitnesses from Abu al-Qian’s family told Ma’an that Israeli police officers were shooting “heavily” in all directions, and that they believed Levi could have been struck by Israeli police bullets.

Abu Arar, a member of the Arab Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel, told Ma’an on Wednesday that Israeli authorities “hurried” to bury Levi mere hours after the end of the unrest in al-Hiran.

He called on Israeli authorities to exhume the police officer’s body and proceed with an autopsy so as to determine the cause of death.

"The Israeli public should be able to know whether the police officer was killed as a result of being run over, or as a result of gunfire from other police officers who were firing in all direction," Abu Arar said.

The Abu al-Qian family has meanwhile demanded an investigation into Yaboub Abu al-Qian's killing, and rights groups also announced on Monday that they had appealed to the Israeli Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department (PID) to open a criminal probe into how and why police allegedly shot MK Ayman Odeh during the Umm al-Hiran clashes, who was present at the scene to support locals in resisting the demolitions.

The Umm al-Hiran raid has caused heightened emotions among the Israeli and Palestinian publics, with Israeli authorities claiming that Abu al-Qian was killed while carrying out a “terrorist attack,” while many Palestinians saw the incident as yet another instance of deadly Israeli police violence against Palestinian communities both in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Protests have erupted to denounce the demolitions in Umm al-Hiran, as well as other demolitions in Palestinian-majority towns in Israel.

Rights groups have long claimed that demolitions in Bedouin villages unrecognized by Israel are 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.

At a rally in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Knesset member and Palestinian citizen of Israel Issawi Freij claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been ramping up demolitions in an attempt to distract the Israeli public from an ongoing corruption investigation into himself.

“The prime minister wants to mark out an enemy on whom his voters can vent their anger,” Freij told hundreds of demonstrators.
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