B’Tselem Investigation: Soldier killed Iyad Hamed in Silwad though he posed no danger to anyone

On 26 August 2016, at about 12:00 Noon, soldiers shot and killed Iyad Zakaria Muhammad Hamed, 37, married with two children, close to a military observation tower overlooking Route 60. In the first of several versions reported by the media, the military initially claimed that Hamed had fire shots at the tower. This was later replaced by the claim that he threw a Molotov cocktail. Eventually, the military alleged that Hamed had run toward them while they were on patrol near the tower, and that they performed the suspect apprehension procedure, which included firing into the air.

B’Tselem’s investigation shows that Hamed, whose acquaintances say had limited functioning, was walking from Silwad toward the neighboring village of Yabrud, both in the Ramallah district of the west bank, as he did on occasion. A truck driver aged 26, whose full name is held by B’Tselem, passed along the road on his way to Silwad shortly before 12:00 Noon and saw Hamed, whom he knew, turning right onto the old road to Yabrud, which has been blocked by the military. Concrete blocks at the entrance to the road leave a narrow gap, but farther along the road the military has installed an observation tower and a barbed wire fence which prevent access to Yabrud entirely. According to A.S.’s testimony, as Hamed approached the tower he began walking back and forth between the tower and the fence, attempting to make an opening in it.

A.S. testified that he shouted to Hamed to get away from the area, but he did not respond, and attempted twice more to make an opening in the fence. A.S. then continued to drive toward Silwad, and saw Hamed moving away from the tower and retracing his steps toward Silwad. He stated that when Hamed was about 10-15 meters away from the tower, several shots were fired in the air and he began to run. At this point A.S. had reached the entrance to Silwad, some 15 meters away from the spot where Hamed was shot. A.S. told B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad:

I saw a soldier coming out from among some trees in one of the orchards to the north of where I was. He made a hand gesture to his friends in the tower. I got to the entrance to the road that connects the entrance to the village with the tower, opposite where the soldier was standing. Iyad Hamed was to my left. I heard another shot and saw that it had hit Iyad in the back. I saw something come out of his chest. At the same time, I saw three soldiers come out from the area around the tower.

A few minutes after the shooting, additional forces arrived in the area and blocked off access to Palestinians. At 12:30 P.M., a Red Crescent ambulance arrived, but its crew was not permitted to approach Hamed, who had in all probability already died by this stage.

M.H., another ambulance driver whose full name is held by B’Tselem, arrived in the area at about 12:45 P.M. He described to B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad what happened then:

There were lots of soldiers, Border Police officers, and Israeli DCO vehicles there. As I approached, I sounded my horn from a distance of about 100 meters. I was surprised to see a soldier or Border Police officer who was lying on the ground and another Border Police officer pointing their weapons at us. They used hand gestures to order us to retreat. I retreated and stopped off to the side, about 100 meters away. The victim was already in a black bag, next to the concrete blocks the military uses to close off the road.

Hamed’s body was evacuated by the military at about 1:00 P.M. and taken to the Ofer military base. Some three hours later, it was transferred to Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah.

M.H., who was present during the post-mortem examination, told B’Tselem field-researcher Iyad Hadad:

I looked at the body together with the forensic pathologists. There was an exit wound made by a live bullet, with a diameter of about two cm, on the left side of the chest. When he turned him over, we saw a hole with a diameter of about 4 mm in the middle of his back, to the left of the spine, opposite the exit wound.

B’Tselem’s investigation shows that the soldiers shot Hamed in the back while he was moving away from them, posing no danger to them whatsoever. Shooting in such circumstances is illegal. According to the final version presented by the military (after several changes, as noted), the soldiers followed the suspect apprehension procedure, including firing in the air. Given the lethal outcome of the shooting, this version is also inconsistent with the facts. The military shot and killed an innocent passerby who was not a danger to anyone.

According to the IDF Spokesperson’s statement, the Military Police Investigations Unit opened an investigation into the incident on suspicion of negligent homicide. However, several days after Hamed was shot, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman mentioned the incident, among others, saying that “soldiers cannot go out on a mission accompanied by a lawyer”. Past experience shows that the military law enforcement system is concerned primarily with whitewashing investigations, rather than with getting at the truth and ensuring accountability. This reality, combined with the Defense Minister’s tacit support for the soldier who opened fire, make it highly unlikely that those responsible for killing Hamed will be held to account. This reality allows the military to carry on with a trigger-happy policy manifesting the Israeli authorities’ disrespect for Palestinian lives.

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