Ex-police officials: ‘Hard to believe’ disputed deadly Jerusalem shooting not on CCTV

Former senior police officials said on Saturday it appeared unlikely that there was any footage of the fatal shooting of a man by security officers in Jerusalem’s Old City – the incident police described as a “terrorist attack,” and the man’s eyewitnesses and relatives denied The case. official account.

Police said 26-year-old Mohammed Elasibi – a resident of the Bedouin town of Hura in southern Israel, grabbed a policeman’s gun and shot him twice before being shot dead.

Police said Saturday afternoon that the shooting was in an area not covered by security cameras, a claim Channel 13 news called “absurd.”

Police added that “unfortunately the terrorist attack itself was not recorded on the body cameras of the officers involved.”

However, former Jerusalem police chief Yair Itzhaki told a cultural event in Rishon Lezion that it seemed unlikely that there was any footage of the incident.

“I don’t see the possibility that there is no police documentation. I personally put the array of security cameras there,” Itzhaki said.

Mohammed Elasibi (Social media used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

An unnamed former senior police commander expressed similar sentiments about the lack of publicly released footage in comments to the Ynet news site.

“The place is flooded with cameras, so unless there was a system malfunction, I find it hard to believe they didn’t record the shooting,” the former commander said.

“The road to the gate is also filmed so it makes no sense that the incident was not filmed,” they said.

Police said the Jerusalem District Central Investigations Unit would investigate the shooting.

Police have doubled down on their version of events, issuing multiple statements condemning “false publications” about the incident, including claims that the area was covered by CCTV.

The latest statement also said that Elasibi had been more religiously cautious recently, without providing further context.

Elasibi’s family had previously asked for video footage of the shooting near the Chain Gate, an entrance to the Temple Mount holy site, to be released.

“We know that every meter in the alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem is recorded and that the police are supposed to be equipped with cameras,” Fahad Elasibi told Haaretz, questioning why the footage was not released.

He said the story was reminiscent of “the story of Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an where the truth was revealed only after years”.

Abu al-Qia’an was shot dead by police in January 2017 after his car plowed into police who came to demolish houses in his unidentified village, killing officer Erez Levi. Three and a half years later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Abu al-Qia’an’s family, saying that although the police insisted he was a terrorist, “it turned out he was not.”

An unnamed relative of Elasibi told the Walla news site that a thorough investigation was needed into the shooting: “Every minute that the videos are not published, the level of credibility of the police decreases.”

Party leader Ra’am Mansour Abbas also demanded the immediate release of the film: “I don’t believe the version of the police that there is no documentation from the security cameras. There is an attempt to hide and conceal the truth.”

MK Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman tweeted that “it was a cold-blooded murder according to the eyewitnesses, and the police lied and smeared.”

“Just like they did in the murder of Iyad Halak and Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an and others. They then also claimed that Palestine was a “terrorist” who was murdered to whitewash their crimes,” said Touma-Sliman, citing the killing of a Palestinian man with autism in May 2020 by a policeman.

Police said Israeli security forces shot and killed Elasibi in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday night after he seized an officer’s weapon.

Police said Elasibi was stopped by officers for questioning when he attacked one of them, grabbed his firearm, and managed to fire two shots during a struggle. The officers felt threatened and responded with gunfire, “neutralized on the spot,” said the police.

Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem after a shooting incident on April 1, 2023 (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

However, witnesses and family members denied the police version of events, saying that Elasibi was not a terrorist and that he was “killed in cold blood.”

Witnesses told the Ynet news site that Elasibi, who was set to take his final exams after studying medicine in Romania, did not pose a danger to the officers.

“The police were treating a woman inappropriately and he intervened and tried to help her – then they shot him. The shooting was unnecessary,” said an anonymous witness, noting that Elasibi was unarmed.

People on the scene told the Haaretz daily that the man was shot at close range, about ten times.

“Muhammad was killed in cold blood without causing any danger. He is a successful person who studied medicine, and he never thought of hurting anyone,” the man’s relatives said in a statement to Ynet.

The hometown of Hura Elasibi on Saturday declared a day of mourning and a two-day strike.

The incident happened near the Temple Mount flashpoint as security forces were on high alert during the sensitive Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Police officers assessed the situation after the incident and deployed reinforcements to the area.

Police said, contrary to reports circulating on social media, there was no significant disturbance on the Temple Mount or in the Old City.

Some Border Police were involved in minor scuffles, with video showing officers throwing sticks and tackling passers-by on Old City Street.

For Palestinian Muslims, worshiping at the site’s Al-Aqsa mosque — the third holiest site in Islam — is a central part of the Ramadan festival. Jews respect the same site as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism as the site of the ancient Temples.

Security forces were already on high alert in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday as thousands of Muslims took part in mass prayers at the site on the second Friday of Ramadan.

Palestinians participate in Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, March 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The Muslim holy month, which began on Thursday and will end on April 21, often sees heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions, with frictions already high this year in Jerusalem and across the West Bank after months of deadly violence.

The military has eased some restrictions on movement for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to allow women, children and some men to pray there without permits.

Last Friday, prayers in Jerusalem passed without major incident, however, the police detained one man suspected of incitement for hanging the flag of a terrorist organization at the complex.

Some officials have warned that this Ramadan could be the most difficult to handle in recent years, as tensions remained high amid a cycle of deadly Palestinian terror attacks and deadly Israeli raids in the West Bank, as well as an increase in settler violence.

Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 15 dead and several others seriously injured.

At least 86 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them in attacks or during clashes with security forces, although some were unrelated civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

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