The surroundings of the Damascus Gate, the main access to the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, has once again been stained with blood. A young Palestinian stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jew on Saturday afternoon – who was admitted to a hospital with serious injuries – before being shot dead by agents of the Border Police, a militarized security force. The custom in the Holy City since the outbreak of the so-called “Knife Intifada” in October 2015, although increasingly intermittently. The images of the events recorded by security cameras and private telephones, however, have now sparked controversy over the two police shots that finished off the attacker when he lay on the ground badly wounded.
Against the usual the police rushed to release a video (black and white and no audio) of 50 seconds recorded in a roundabout located between the Damascus Gate and the commercial area of the Street of the Prophets. The images show the Palestinian identified as Mohamed Salima, 25, living in the town of Salfit (north of the West Bank), stabbing a knife in the chest and back of an Israeli dressed in black: the ultrareligious Abraham Elmellah, 20-year-old, who was returning from the evening prayer at the Western Wall. Shortly after, the young Palestinian goes to a border policeman who had come to the area and tries to stab him as well.
At that moment, another officer opens fire on the aggressor, who falls and lies on the ground. In the final moments, the two policemen hold the assailant at gunpoint. After apparently receiving two bullet shots, he is permanently immobile. Other policemen then arrive on the scene and seem to signal their colleagues to stop opening fire.
Images recorded from inside a car with a mobile phone (in color and with sound) they show the final 22 seconds. They hear the detonations of the two consecutive shots fired by one of the agents, the second of which finishes off the Palestinian Salima, a member of the nationalist Fatah party who had recently been jailed in Israel on charges of “incitement to violence.”
The police of #Israel shoots a young man #Palestinian who had stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jew near the Damascus gate of #Jerusalem. A video shows that two officers shot the attacker as he lay on the ground after committing the attack. https://t.co/22OYFntE98
– Juan Carlos Sanz (@jcspais) December 4, 2021
The Border Police immediately opened an investigation into the events, questioned the two agents involved and seized their weapons to examine them. “This is the usual procedure in these cases,” said a police spokesman. Both border policemen, a body in which many young Israelis enlist for compulsory military service, received legal assistance during interrogation.
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The prime minister, the ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett, expressed his support for the two officers for having acted “professionally, resolutely and swiftly in a terrorist attack.” The Minister of Public Security, Labor Minister Omer Barlev, clarified his support this Sunday in statements to the radio: “You cannot doubt in this type of situation. The (security) forces have to use their best professional judgment on the ground, even if it is not the right one in the end ”.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Salima’s death as “an extrajudicial execution” and “a recorded war crime.” Also the Israeli Arab deputy Ahmed Tibi demanded that a commission of inquiry be formed in the Knesset (Parliament) on the events, which he described as “a cold-blooded execution of a wounded man who no longer posed a threat.”
“The assailant was not neutralized, he was summarily executed,” added the Israeli pacifist NGO B’Tselem. Another Israeli Arab leader, the Minister of Regional Cooperation, Issawi Frej, affiliated with the pacifist Meretz party, tried to settle the controversy in an intervention via Twitter: “It is only possible to open fire in these situations if it is about saving lives, and not for end the life of someone who no longer represents any danger. The images we have seen show an act of indifference to human life ”.
Last week, an Israeli was killed and three others were injured in a rare firearm attack by a Palestinian in the Old City of Jerusalem. The attacker, a resident of East Jerusalem affiliated with the Islamist Hamas party, opened fire with a submachine gun at one of the entrances to the Esplanade of the Mosques, before being shot dead by security forces. Between 2015 and 2016, a wave of violence called the “Intifada of the Knives” caused the deaths of dozens of Israelis and almost three hundred Palestinians, most of them attackers who were “neutralized” by the security forces.
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