Israel ends probe into Palestinian protester's death

Army says tear gas canister that struck Bassem Abu Rahmeh in chest during anti-security barrier rally in Bilin was not intentionally aimed. Brother says, 'Israeli justice system protests soldiers so they can continue killing innocent people'

Rate item:
Published by

Ali Waked and AP, Ynet

- Israel's military said Thursday it will not file any charges in the death of a Palestinian protester last year.

 

Thirty-one-year-old Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed when a tear gas canister fired by troops hit him in the chest during a protest last April against Israel's West Bank security barrier.

 

The army claimed Abu Rahmeh was in a group of people throwing rocks at troops. But video footage showed the protesters shouting at soldiers, not throwing anything.

 

The Israeli military said Thursday it closed the investigation after determining the canister was not intentionally aimed at Abu Rahmeh.

 

The death occurred near Bilin, a village that holds weekly protests against the barrier. Israel says the structure is for security. The Palestinians say it has seized chunks of the West Bank.

 

Abu Rahmeh's relatives said they were not surprised by the army's decision. His brother Ashraf said the Israeli justice system "is aimed at providing a cover for soldiers so that they may continue killing innocent people.

 

"I don't understand how such a case can be closed," said the brother, who shot in the leg with a rubber-coated bullet while handcuffed and blindfolded during a separate confrontation with IDF soldiers in Naalin in July 2008.

 

"Hundreds of witnesses saw Bassem call out to the soldier, 'Hold your fire! Hold your fire!' He was hit from six meters (about 20 feet) away by a canister that is supposed to be fired from a distance of two kilometers (1.24 miles) – and the army still decided to close the case," said Ashraf Abu Rahmeh.

 

 

"The hearings in my case are constantly being delayed in an effort to wear us out and cause people to forget about the case, but we do not plan on giving up – not in my case and not in Bassem's case," he said.

 

Ashraf said that the family intends to continue pursuing legal measures in Israel, but added, "If these procedures do not help us regain our rights, then we will turn to the International Court. It cannot be that hundreds of innocent people are killed without one soldier or officer being arrested."

 

The IDF said in response, "The investigation findings did not show that a crime had taken place or that the canister was fired directly (at Bassem Abu Rahmeh), as was claimed. The decision to close the case was reached after a thorough examination of the relevant details."