Shoot first, ask questions later: Soldiers shoot and gravely injure Ahmad Hasunah, who posed no threat

Shoot first, ask questions later: Soldiers shoot and gravely injure Ahmad Hasunah, who posed no threat

Published: 
4 Dec 2014

On the night between 11 and 12 November 2014, there was a family gathering at the home of the Hasunah family in the Palestinian town of Bitunya, which is designated as Area A. According to B’Tselem’s inquiries, at approximately 2:00 A.M., 20-year-old Ahmad Hasunah and his sister, 35-year-old Nagham Saqer, went together to throw out the garbage. Saqer had already turned around and started walking back to the house, when soldiers who had concealed themselves behind the garbage dumpsters fired – with no prior warning and for no reason – several live bullets at Hasunah. He was hit in his left hip and in both thighs. 

After the shooting, the soldiers emerged from behind the dumpsters. Yet, instead of calling for an ambulance and providing first aid to the injured man, they began questioning him. They asked and began questioning Hasunah, for his name, ID number, and other details. Only some twenty minutes after shooting they shot Hasunah did the soldiers first provide him with medical assistance. Meanwhile, several of the soldiers entered the family’s home and confiscated their DVR machine, which records the footage captured on surveillance cameras installed around the house. As the machine and all its contents were seized, B’Tselem does not know whether the cameras captured the incident. However, given their position, it appears likely that the incident was fully captured by one of the cameras. 

The area captured by the building’s surveillance camera. The man behind the garbage dumpsters is standing approximately where the soldiers are believed to have been, where bullet casings had been. The man in foreground is standing where Hasunah was when shot. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 24 November 2014.
The area captured by the building’s surveillance camera. The man behind the garbage dumpsters is standing approximately where the soldiers are believed to have been, where bullet casings had been. The man in foreground is standing where Hasunah was when shot. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 24 November 2014.

Red Crescent records show that the soldiers permitted a Palestinian ambulance team to take Hasunah to hospital only at 2:28 A.M. Our inquiries indicate that this was accomplished only after the soldiers arrested and took away another Palestinian, who lives in a neighboring home. Apparently, this man’s arrest was the reason the troops had come to Bitunya. 

One of the bullets that hit Ahmad Hasunah caused injuries to internal organs and his spine. He underwent surgery and was hospitalized in Ramallah. The medical staff was concerned he may never be able to walk again. On 14 November 2014, Hasunah was transferred to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Israel, where he underwent further surgery to remove the bullet that had remained lodged close to his spine. After the operation, the Hadassah doctors said that, with extensive care and rehabilitation, there is a possibility that Hasunah may regain his ability to walk. Hasunah was neither arrested nor interrogated at any point, after being taken to hospital. 

Ahmad Hasunah in Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem. Photo: Hasunah Hasunah, 19 Nov. 2014Ahmad Hasunah related the events surrounding his injury to B’Tselem researcher ‘Amer ‘Aruri:

“At around 2:00 A.M., after I threw the garbage into the dumpster behind the building, my sister and I started walking back home. My sister walked a bit ahead of me and she entered the building while I was still out on the street. Suddenly, I felt something penetrate the back of my thighs and I heard shooting and people talking in Hebrew. I fell onto the ground and was lying on my back. I saw four Israeli soldiers come out from behind the dumpster. They pointed laser beams at me. They stood all around me while I screamed in pain. One soldier asked me: What’s your name? He asked for my ID number. I gave the number and the other details they asked for. One soldier started going through my pockets. Even though I was bleeding, none of the soldiers tried to treat me or offer me first aid. In the meantime, my father and sister came out, but the soldiers wouldn’t let them near me.”

Nagham Saqer, Hasunah’s sister, related the events of that night to B’Tselem researcher Iyad Hadad:

“My brother Ahmad and I had gone to throw out the garbage. Suddenly, I heard live fire. I heard Ahmad cry out in pain. He fell down on the pavement in front of the stairwell. I was very frightened and didn’t dare go back out to go over to him because I was afraid of getting hurt myself, so I ran home to get my family. At first they were all in shock. Just then a few soldiers came to the front door and wouldn’t let us open it. My father and I went out through the back door, where I had just come from, and we saw Ahmad lying on the pavement. There were more than eight soldiers standing around him. They wouldn’t let us come near. Ahmad was groaning and crying out in pain. He was saying he couldn’t feel his legs and other things in that vein. I heard one soldier ask him: Where is your ID card, your ID card. The soldier looked through Ahmad’s pockets. 

Twenty minutes went by before a military doctor arrived and started treating Ahmad. Ten minutes later, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance came and the soldiers let the team take him to hospital in Ramallah. There was a big blood stain left on the ground where he had been lying. 

The soldiers raided the apartments of my relatives who live in our building and damaged the doors. They also confiscated the DVR machine of our building’s security cameras. If the machine was here, you could see footage of what happened.”

The dumpsters behind which the soldiers were apparently lying in ambush. The man in yellow is standing where Hasunah was when shot. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 24 November 2014. Click on image to enlarge.
The dumpsters behind which the soldiers were apparently lying in ambush. The man in yellow is standing where Hasunah was when shot. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 24 November 2014. Click on image to enlarge. 

The IDF Spokesperson’s told Israeli daily Haaretz:  “During operational activity to arrest a terror activist in Beitunia, carried out by a special unit, a suspect was spotted fleeing from the building in which the target for arrest was located. The force carried out ‘suspect arrest procedure,’ after which fire was aimed at the lower torso of the suspect, wounding him moderately. The suspect was given immediate medical treatment by a paramedic, and afterward it was decided to evacuate him via the Red Crescent. A few days later, when an update was received that his medical condition had deteriorated, his transfer to Israel for continued medical treatment was authorized.”

This description of the incident contradicts B’Tselem’s findings. First, Hasunah did nothing that would render him a “suspect” – he posed no danger to anyone, was unarmed, and was walking home with his back to the soldiers at the time he was shot, therefore posing no threat to them. Second, Hasunah was not fleeing – he walked out of the building with his sister, threw out the garbage, turned around and started walking back home. Third, the soldiers did not carry out ‘suspect arrest procedure’ – they did not call out to Hasunah to stop nor did they fire shots in the air. The first and only step they acted on was firing directly at Hasunah.

The IDF Spokesperson’s statement, which implies that the soldiers acted properly according to regulation, entirely ignores the grave outcome of the incident: a person suspected of nothing, who was not trying to fell and was not even aware of the presence of the soldiers hiding behind the garbage cans, was shot and injured.

The incident took place in a residential neighborhood in the heart of Area A, where the Israeli military is ordinarily not present. Given that fact, the soldiers should have known – and their acted should have reflected this knowledge – that the place is peopled with civilians going about their daily lives, and that these civilians might go outside even in the wee hours of night for any number of reasons. Yet the train of events indicates that the soldiers acted under the assumption that any person walking outside at night was suspect, even without any corroborating evidence. The fact that the soldiers were operating under such an assumption is the responsibility of their commanders, who did not give them proper guidelines in advance and did not brief them on how to act in such environs. 

B’Tselem wrote to the MAG Corps demanding that a criminal investigation be opened into the incident. In the letter, B’Tselem noted that the investigation must cover: the shooting at Hasunah; withholding medical aid; damage to the property of the Hasunah family; and the grave attempt at hampering the investigation by removing key evidence from the scene. B’Tselem also demanded that the investigation of the incident address the responsibility borne by the commanding officers, including an examination of the orders and directives issued to the soldiers. In addition, B’Tselem demanded that the footage of the incident be handed over to the MPIU immediately.