A visual investigation of footage recorded in Umm el-Hiran during an incident that left a Bedouin man and an Israeli police officer dead shows that, contrary to police claims, Israeli forces opened fire on the vehicle before it sped up.
Video by Forensic Architecture / Activestills, text by Natasha Roth
A visual and aural investigation of two pieces of footage recorded in Umm el-Hiran on Wednesday, during an incident which left a Bedouin man and an Israeli police officer dead, appears to contradict the official police narrative of a car-ramming attack.
The Israeli authorities say that the driver of the car, Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qi’an, intentionally accelerated toward a group of police officers and plowed into them, killing Erez Levi. But eyewitnesses counter that the police opened fire on Qian’s vehicle before it sped up and that the car struck the police as a result of Abu al-Qi’an losing control.
Early on Wednesday morning, hundreds of Israeli police officers arrived in the unrecognized Bedouin village ahead of scheduled demolitions, as part of plans to replace Umm el-Hiran with a Jewish town, Hiran. Eyewitnesses in the village reported hearing a few single shots of live fire shortly after the Israeli forces arrived, before then hearing several longer bursts and shouts of people having been killed.
The visual analysis, conducted by Forensic Architecture and Activestills, assessed the sequence of events by comparing footage shot by Activestills photographers and police aerial footage of the incident. By synchronizing the clips and photos taken on the ground, while at the same time layering the sound from the Activestills video over the silent police tape, the investigators were able to determine that police opened fire on Abu al-Qian’s car before he sped up.
The footage begins with Abu al-Qian driving slowly in the general direction of the police, at which point three shots are fired. A further four gunshots are fired immediately afterwards.
According to the video, the car changes direction four seconds after the first shot, speeding up and heading toward the group of police officers. Six seconds after the first shot, Abu al-Qian’s car hits the officers. A longer series of gunshots is then heard, along with shouting and the car’s horn sounding continuously, which the investigators suggest may be due to Abu al-Qian being incapacitated. His car is finally brought to a halt by a police car, 13 seconds after the first shot was fired.
After the car has stopped completely, a final gunshot is heard. According to Forensic Architecture and Activestills, this is what Israeli security forces term a “verification killing” — shooting to kill an already incapacitated individual.
Almost immediately after the incident occurred, Israeli police announced that Abu al-Qian was an activist with the Islamic Movement, and suggested he may have ties to the Islamic State group. However, the Shin Bet has yet to produce evidence that any such ties exist.
Following the two deaths and the violent altercations that followed, including the injuring of Joint List head Ayman Odeh, bulldozers destroyed a number of homes, animal sheds and other structures in the village.