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Fatally shot though posing no danger: Israeli soldier shot ‘Iz a-Din Tamimi from behind; he was fleeing after throwing a stone at the soldier

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'Iz a-Din Tamimi. Photo courtesy of the family

At about 8:00 A.M. on the morning of 6 June 2018, two Israeli military troop transport vehicles and a jeep drove into the Palestinian village of a-Nabi Saleh, which is northwest of the city of Ramallah. One of the vehicles stopped opposite the gas station at the western entrance to the village, close to the intersection leading to Beit Rima. About ten soldiers got out, planning to carry out arrests in the village. The soldiers split up into two groups: one ordered workers at a nearby carpentry workshop to close it and took up positions on the roof of the building. The second group deployed around the orchards and stores located opposite and to the north of the gas station. The second vehicle and the jeep stopped across from the carpentry workshop.

At about 9:30 A.M., two 20-year-old village residents – ‘Iz a-Din Tamimi and his friend A.T. – approached the area from the east in order to throw stones at the soldiers. The two young men concealed their faces with their shirts and hid behind the stores across from the gas station, about 15-20 meters away from the troop transportation vehicle. A soldier was standing behind the vehicle.

In testimony taken by B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, A.T. recalled:

‘Iz a-Din was fully exposed to the soldier. I stayed behind the corner of the store and threw stones from there. I hit the vehicle or the soldier, I’m not really sure which it was. The soldier noticed ‘Iz a-Din, who didn’t leave right away. He fired a bullet at him, but missed. We then immediately ran off, going into the orchard we’d come from and there we split up. ‘Iz a-Din ran toward the houses and I ran between the trees. While I was running I heard two live gunshots fired in our direction. I didn’t know where they’d hit and I could no longer see ‘Iz a-Din. I thought he’d managed to escape between the houses. While I was running, when I was already more than 100 meters away from the soldiers, they fired tear gas canisters into the area I was fleeing to. I kept on running and turned around to head to the main road in the middle of the village to meet up with ‘Iz a-Din. On the way I asked village children if they’d seen ‘Iz a-Din, but they hadn’t..

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'Iz a-Din Tamimi. Photo courtesy of the familyA-Nabi Saleh’s gas station and the wooden building behind which the young men hid;

Khaled Hamdan, 19, a resident of a-Nabi Saleh who is studying economics at Bir Zeit University and also works at the university, arrived at the gas station at about 9:00 A.M. He was waiting for his ride to the university.

In testimony taken on 7 June 2018 by B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, he described what he saw: 

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Khaled Hamdan. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 7 June 2018

At 9:35 A.M. – I’m sure that was the time because I filmed what happened on my phone –  I saw two young men from our village, ‘Iz a-Din Tamimi and A.T., coming from the direction of the houses to the east of the southeast corner of the stores. They were about 15 meters away from me. Their faces were covered and they had stones in their hands. As soon as I saw them I figured they were going to throw stones at the troop carrier, because it was near them. I turned on the camera on my cell phone and started to film the soldiers in order to record their reaction to the stone throwing. At the same time, one of the soldiers had already gotten out of the passenger seat and was beginning to look around and to walk behind the vehicle, in other words toward the two young men.

As soon as the two young men reached the corner of the stores, A.T. threw his stones first, without exposing his body. The stones hit the vehicle. ‘Iz a-Din darted out from behind the corner, exposing his body to the soldier as he threw his stone. I think it hit the soldier’s helmet. They ran back in the direction they’d come from, one after the other. As soon as the soldier was hit by the stones, he reacted quickly, firing a live bullet in the direction the young men had come from. But because they’d run behind the stores, he took a few steps until they were both in his sights. Then, from the corner of the stores, he fired two live bullets, one after the other. I think ‘Iz a-Din was running behind A.T., because I couldn’t see A.T. any more. I guess they must have split up. When the soldier fired, ‘Iz a-Din was about 40 meters away from him.
 

A few minutes after the shooting, the soldiers went the spot where Tamimi was lying on the ground. He’d been injured. At the same time, some village residents arrived on the scene. After a few more minutes, during which the eyewitnesses state that Tamimi did not receive any medical treatment, apart from an external examination and the taking of his pulse, the soldiers brought a stretcher and took him to the troop carrier that was parked across from the gas station. While they were doing this, the soldiers fired several stun grenades at the local residents who were following them. The vehicle remained on the scene for another five minutes or so, and only then evacuated Tamimi from the area. It was half an hour to an hour later that the Palestinian DCO informed Tamimi’s parents that he had died.

 

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View from where the shooter was. ‘Iz a-Din Tamimi was shot near the green house. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 6 June 2018

Later that day, at about 3:00 P.M., Tamimi’s funeral procession left the hospital in Ramallah, where his body had been taken, and headed toward a-Nabi Saleh. On the way, near ‘Atarah which is north of Ramallah, Israeli Border Police and soldiers held up the funeral procession for about half an hour. After which time the Civil Administration officials on the scene allowed the ambulance carrying Tamimi’s body to pass, together with a few other vehicles, but would not allow the rest of the vehicles through. The vehicles that were permitted to drive through blocked the road and some of the passengers got out. Soldiers approached them, pepper-spraying some of the people blocking the road, and shoving some. They also confiscated the keys to one person’s car. After about 20 minutes, the security forces allowed the vehicles to continue on their way toward a-Nabi Saleh.
 

In testimony taken on 7 June 2018 by B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Tamimi’s father, ‘Abd al-Hafez Tamimi, 59, described the day’s events: 

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Abd al-Hafiz Tamimi. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 7 June 2018

Yesterday, at about 9:30 in the morning, I was at home when a resident of the village suddenly called me and told me that the military had shot ‘Iz a-Din the gas station at the entrance to the village. My wife and I went out there immediately and then we learned that the military had already driven him away to the area by the observation tower at the entrance to the village. I went there, but the soldiers wouldn’t let me approach. I couldn’t tell whether the vehicle that had evacuated him was there or not. There was a heavy military presence in the area, and patrols and vehicles were coming and going. Things were tense and every so often soldiers threw stun grenades and teargas canisters to keep away anyone who tried to approach to ask about ‘Iz a-Din. I went back into the village. At 11:00 A.M. the Palestinian DCO told us that the military had informed them that my son was dead. I pray that in the afterlife he is resting beside the martyrs, the prophets, and the saints. 

We have five children and ‘Iz a-Din was the youngest. He dropped out of school when he was 16, in the tenth grade, and started working. He didn’t have a profession and he worked odd jobs. He didn’t have any big ambitions, he just wanted to live a stable life, build an apartment, marry, and start a family. People like him. He got on great with everyone. But the Israeli military didn’t give him a chance to live in dignity and to realize his dreams like other people.
 

B’Tselem’s investigation shows that the soldier shot Tamimi from in his back, from a distance of about 45 meters, while he was fleeing, and at a point when he did not pose any danger. The military’s open-fire regulations permit lethal gunfire only when members of the security forces or other persons are in mortal danger. Even then, such firing is permitted only when there is no other way to prevent the danger. The fatal shooting of ‘Iz a-Din Tamimi in no way meets these conditions; making it illegal and unjustified. 

The day after the incident, it was reported in the media that the Military Police Investigations Unit had opened an investigation into the killing of Tamimi. However, experience has shown that the purpose of such investigations and announcements is to silence any criticism against the military. In any case, the opening of an investigation – a step that exceptional in and of itself – does not lead to the prosecution of those responsible for the unlawful killing, and certainly not of senior officials. This conduct renders hollow the open-fire regulations, which are supposed to restrict the use of live and lethal gunfire, of any meaning, thereby evincing Israel’s profound disregard for the life and limb of Palestinians. Ultimately, it is the systemic policy of whitewashing the killing of Palestinians by soldiers that allows soldiers to act in gross violation of the open-fire regulations without having to pay any price for their actions. The policy thereby enables the continuing use of lethal force, a critical component in Israel’s ability to continue to maintain its violent control over millions of Palestinians.