B’Tselem’s investigation found that, contrary to official Israeli statements, Saleh Barghouti did not try to flee or run anyone over, nor could he have tried: two security vehicles were blocking the taxi he was driving at either end, and he was surrounded by some 10 security personnel who shot him point-blank – an operation resembling an extrajudicial killing. Official attempts to sanction the killing in retrospect ensure no one will be held accountable.
On 12 December 2018, at around 6:30 P.M., two Israeli security vehicles blocked the path of a taxi driving along the main road of Surda, a Palestinian village in Ramallah District. Driving the taxi was Saleh Barghouti, 28, husband and father of a 5-year-old boy from the village of Kobar, which lies north of Ramallah. About ten personnel, including Special Police Unit officers, got out of the vehicles, surrounded the taxi and shot Barghouti point-blank. They then pulled the wounded Barghouti out of the taxi, handcuffed him and drove away with him. The IDF notified the family that Barghouti had been critically injured in the incident and died in hospital. According to the Shin Bet (ISA), Barghouti, who was an operative with Hamas’ military wing, was suspected of involvement in the drive-by shooting that took place on 9 December 2018 at the hitch-hiking post near the settlement of Ofra, north of Ramallah. Seven Israelis were injured in the attack, including Shira Ish-Ran, who was seven months pregnant and delivered of her baby in hospital. The baby boy, Amiad Israel Ish-Ran, died three days later.
This is what one of the eyewitnesses to the event, S.K. from the Palestinian village of ‘Arurah in Ramallah District, told B’Tselem field researcher, Iyad Hadad, in a testimony he gave on 13 December 2018:
The car driving ahead of me - a civilian jeep, a blue SsangYong with Palestinian license plates - suddenly crashed into the car before it. A group of Israeli special forces, who were wearing facemasks and black uniforms with vests and carrying rifles, got out of the jeep and another group got out of a white Mercedes minibus that had been driving ahead of the car that was hit. The all ran and surrounded the car. The driver started rolling up the window. I heard three or four shots, “tak, tak, tak”, very faint - I think there was a silencer - fired directly at the driver from close range. The window shattered. Then they opened the door, pulled the driver out and laid him on the ground.
Contrary to statements issued by the Shin Bet and the IDF, which framed the killing of Saleh Barghouti as an undesirable outcome of his arrest, Barghouti did not try to flee or run anyone over, nor could he have tried. He was surrounded by security forces, sitting in a taxi that was blocked at either end by security vehicles. In this position, he was shot point-blank and critically injured. There is no way to justify what appears to be an extrajudicial killing, rather than an arrest. Yet experience shows that no one will be held accountable in this case, too. Whether the incident is even investigated or not, Israel routinely sanctions the use of lethal force by its security forces against Palestinians.