On June 23, 2020, Ahmad Erekat crashed into the Container checkpoint, located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Border Police officers shot him six times in two seconds, claiming he had attempted a car-ramming attack. But a new forensic investigation undermines the authorities’ version of events.
At the request of the Erekat family, Forensic Architecture, a research agency that relies on spatial and media tools to investigate human rights violations, in collaboration with Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, examined the incident. The visual investigation was published this week, eight months after the crash.
“What became very clear from analyzing this footage was the range of contradictory statements released by the [authorities] that day. And we’re not just talking about statements that are doubtful — statements that are plainly incorrect,” Forensic Architecture’s lead researcher on the case says on the latest episode of The +972 Podcast.
Border Police has only released one video of the incident. It’s a grainy phone recording of a laptop screen showing a few seconds of footage from one security camera. Forensic Architecture used this video, along with open source investigation, witness testimony, shadow analysis, time synchronization, and 3D modeling to reconstruct the events of that day.
The investigation sought to establish the circumstances of the car crash, the use of lethal force, whether Ahmad received medical care after being shot, and how the various Israeli authorities at the scene treated Ahmad’s body.
The findings show that Ahmad wasn’t speeding into the checkpoint, and that he was denied medical care after he was shot. In an unusual move, he was also fully undressed at the scene, “signifying both inhumane and degrading treatment of the body,” the lead researcher explains.
Border Police has yet to issue an official investigation into the incident. They are also refusing to publish details of the autopsy that would show Ahmad’s wounds and explain the cause of death.
The Israeli authorities have yet to release Ahmad’s body to his family. His body is one of dozens that Israel is withholding, as a punitive measure against Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks. This practice is also used to give Israel leverage in future negotiations with Palestinians. As a result, grieving families are denied proper burial and closure.