The IDF must come clean about the Hebron shooting

Why is the Israeli army refusing to release its footage from the shooting of 18-year-old Hadeel al-Hashlamon? 

By Noam Rotem

Bystander Fawaz Abu Aisheh attempts to translate the soldiers’ commands for Hashlamon, and convinces her to step back behind the metal barrier. (Photo courtesy of Youth Against Settlements)
Bystander Fawaz Abu Aisheh attempts to translate the soldiers’ commands for Hashlamon, and convinces her to step back behind the metal barrier. (Photo courtesy of Youth Against Settlements)

Israeli soldiers shot to death Hadeel al-Hashlamon, 18, in Hebron last week while she was apparently on her way to school. Found inside the black bag she was carrying were notebooks, a blue Pilot pen, a brown pencil case, a cellular phone, and other things girls of her age take to school.

The IDF Spokesperson says that the metal detector at the urban checkpoint beeped when she passed through it, and that she ignored orders to stop from the soldiers, who the shot her. It was then discovered that she had a knife, and when she still didn’t stop they shot her some more.

Witnesses told various reporters that Hashlamon simply didn’t understand the orders being shouted at her — she didn’t speak Hebrew. The first shot was a warning shot at the ground, the second shot hit her left leg and dropped her to the ground, and a third shot immediately after that hit her in the right leg. Two eye witnesses say that at that point the soldier who fired the first shots approached her, crossed the metal barrier that was separating them, stood over her, and shot her again, in the stomach, and then in the chest.

One of the witnesses, Fawaz Abu Aisheh, was very close to Hashlamon while she was still standing inside the checkpoint. He was also photographed speaking with her by an activist from “Youth Against Settlements.” Shortly after the shooting he gave his testimony to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, in which he stated that when Hashlamon fell to the ground, after the first shot, her hand — which had been hidden until that point — was exposed and in it was a knife.

Abu Aisheh changed his story in his interview with The Guardian, forgetting to mention the knife. He remembered once again when he gave his testimony to Amnesty International, even noting the color of the handle — brown. That, despite the fact that in the photo of the knife distributed by the IDF, the knife’s handle is yellow. Another witness who was nearby, who also gave his account of the events to various organizations and international media, didn’t mention seeing the knife in any of his versions.

Hashlamon was left lying on the ground for a number of minutes after she was shot. Some versions say 30 minutes, others between 10 and 20 minutes. Some witnesses say that a soldier checked her pulse and then sat waiting for an ambulance — which took her first to the adjacent settlement of Kiryat Arba, where there is no ICU, and only later took her to a larger hospital in Jerusalem. According to her father, a physician at a hospital in Hebron who saw his daughter’s medical report, she died of blood loss and multi-system failure as a result of being shot in her right knee, left foot and a number of times in her torso.

Two days after the shooting The Jerusalem Post published an article on its website under a staff byline and contributor credit to Yaakov Lapin, claiming that the Shin Bet said Hashlamon was a known terrorist, and that Israeli authorities considered her a “potential threat.” According to the article, the Shin Bet also claimed that Hashlamon broke up with her boyfriend the day before the shooting, apparently telling him that they would never see each other again. The article was taken offline shortly after being published.

Where’s the video?

Was the shooting an act of self defense by the soldiers wearing ballistic vests in the checkpoint, standing behind a steel barrier separating them and the young woman, as claimed by the IDF Spokesperson? Or was it an “extrajudicial execution,” as Amnesty claimed, and which B’Tselem said in more cautious terms. It won’t be difficult to find the answer. It would actually be very easy.

The IDF has video footage of the entire event, showing the entire sequence of events. To this day, five days since the shooting, the army has chosen not to release that video, a choice that raises questions about its motivations. Is the army covering up yet another for a soldier who sentenced a civilian to death in the West Bank. Did the young woman threaten to attack the armed soldiers to the point that they felt a threat to their lives and that they had no choice but to shoot her? Did Hashlamon pull out and wave a knife at the soldiers? Could she have actually reached soldiers standing on the other side of the barrier separating them? And after the first shot, was there a justification for shooting the 18 year old in her stomach and chest, while she was lying unresponsive on the ground?

All of the evidence is available, all of the testimonies have been recorded. The military prosecutor must put on trial the soldier who cut short Hadeel al-Hashlamon’s life, or alternatively, release the video showing that it was indeed self defense.

The IDF Spokesperson had no response when asked why video of the event hasn’t been published yet and whether it intends to do so.

Israeli soldiers, their commanders and the Shin Bet agents directing them, all know they won’t be punished if they kill civilians who don’t pose a threat. The Military Police is a sad joke riddled by unprofessionalism and a lack of motivation. The military prosecution exists only to provide reasons for not putting soldiers on trial, even when innocent people are killed.

Israeli soldiers have killed more than 25 Palestinians in the West Bank so far in 2015, a number of which raised serious questions about the soldiers’ judgement. Nevertheless, not a single soldier who killed a Palestinian was put on trial. That is the message the IDF sends to its soldiers, and the soldiers who killed Hashlamon came to the checkpoint last week having fully internalized that message.

It is too late for Hadeel al-Hashlamon but the message must be changed. The IDF cannot be allowed to investigate itself because it always finds itself innocent. The shooters must be put on trial, and an independent — non military — body must decide whether the shooting was justified. Until then, there will be no justice.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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