New video contradicts IDF narrative of killing in Jericho

Israeli soldiers shot Yasin al-Saradih in Jericho after he tried to attack them, then the army kept changing its story about how he died. New video shows soldiers abusing and beating him well after he was shot, without treating him.

Soldiers invade the heart of a Palestinian city, clashes ensue and a Palestinian is killed. When news of the killing breaks, the army changes its version of events over and over again. That is, until the video comes out, refuting each and every one of the IDF’s claims.

On February 22, at around 1 a.m., 20 Israeli soldiers entered Jericho’s city center on an arrest mission. Fifteen minutes later, some of the soldiers entered and searched a home while another group of soldiers waited at the end of the alley. The Israeli soldiers’ presence in a Palestinian city predictably led to clashes and stone throwing. At a certain point, Yasin al-Saradih, 35, ran with a metal bar attached to the rim of a car’s wheel and tried to attack the soldiers who were standing at the entrance to the alley.

Security cameras captured in the incident. Al-Saradih is indeed seen running toward the soldiers with a metal bar until one of them shoots him in his lower body at point-blank range. After he is shot, three more soldiers appear and begin kicking al-Saradih, who is laying on his stomach. They then hold him down, shine flashlights on him, kick him again, and drag him through the alley. After 10 minutes, during which he is not given medical treatment, one of the soldiers throws a tear gas grenade at the entrance to the alley, at which point the soldiers are seen evacuating al-Saradih, most likely to avoid the tear gas, outside the frame of the CCTV footage.

A full 15 minutes after that, the soldiers once again show up on the CCTV footage, outside the alley — this time carrying al-Saradih by his arms and legs. They put him in an army jeep that takes him away.

Not long after the incident, Palestinian rights groups — backed by the CCTV footage — reported that al-Saradih had been beaten to death by the soldiers. At that point the IDF Spokesperson changed its version of the events several times. At first, the IDF Spokesperson claimed that “a terrorist armed with a metal bar ran toward IDF soldiers and attempted to attack them. The soldiers responded by opening fire, confronted the terrorist from close range, and succeeded in stopping him. A knife was found on the terrorist’s body. He was evacuated by the soldiers for medical treatment. He was later pronounced dead.”

The next statement, published the same day, claimed only that al-Saradih had attempted to attack the soldiers, who “responded by opening fire, confronting the terrorist from close range, and successfully stopping him,” and that the knife was later found on his body. The following day, the army claimed he had died as a result of inhaling tear gas. An autopsy, the results of which were published the same day, showed that al-Saradih had been wounded by a bullet to his stomach, and likely died of blood loss. Yet the army continued to say that the medics who treated him never saw any signs of a gunshot wound.

What is the IDF doing in a Palestinian city?

Beyond the questions about the brutal violence soldiers used against a wounded man in custody, or about the IDF Spokesperson’s changing versions of events, there is the question of what the hell the army was doing in Jericho, which is meant to be under total Palestinian control. This video is not an isolated incident; Israeli security forces often carry out activities in Area A of the West Bank, with the silent consent of the Palestinian Authority, a form of coordination that angers many Palestinians argue that it demonstrates how the PA is merely as subcontractor helping to administer Israel’s occupation. In return for giving Israeli forces a free hand in its territory, the IDF helps stabilize the PA regime.

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which published the footage (full disclosure: I am on a member of B’Tselem’s board) expressed grave concern over the incident, calling it “one of the most severe incidents that have taken place in the territories”:

In light of this unacceptable conduct, the attempts made by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit to justify the incident with one excuse or another are equally disturbing – as is the resounding silence of military and civilian officials. The absence of a firm, unequivocal statement by the military that such conduct will not be tolerated effectively condones the soldiers’ actions, allowing such incidents to recur in the future. The announcement that a Military Police investigation has been launched, as reported by the media, is meant merely to create the illusion that the military is treating the incident with all seriousness. Based on years of experience, the investigation is unlikely to result in any indictment of the persons responsible for the killing and ill-treatment of a-Saradih – certainly not among the higher ranks.

The IDF Spokesperson issued the following statement:

Following the incident and because the terrorist died after he was already in IDF custody, a Military Police investigation was opened the cause of death is being examined and an autopsy was performed on the terrorist. In parallel, a full operational inquiry into the incident continues.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.