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Outrage after Arab man killed by police in Jerusalem's Old City after he allegedly grabbed officer's weapon

Police claim there's no footage, which ex-police officials say is ‘hard to believe’

Arabs protest following the death of Mohammed El-Asibi, who was shot dead in Jerusalem's Old City after allegedly attempting to steal an officer's weapon, in Umm al-Fahm, April 2, 2023. (Photo: Flash90)

The Israel Police announced yesterday that they had killed an Israeli Arab man who reportedly grabbed a police officer’s weapon in the Old City and aimed it at other officers. 

The suspect was identified as 26-year-old Mohammed El-Asibi, a resident of the southern Bedouin town of Hura, and a medical student in Romania. 

The Israel Police version of the events was immediately attacked by the man’s family and eyewitnesses, as well as Israeli Arab politicians. 

Israeli Arab Knesset Member Mansour Abbas wrote, "I can't believe the police version that there is no footage from the security cameras. There is an attempt to whitewash and hide the truth here. Before the police slander him and call him a terrorist, he demands an immediate investigation and the release of the footage photographed." 

In the Bedouin community of Hura, an emergency meeting of leaders called for a general strike and released a statement demanding an investigation. 

"It's a sad day for Hura. We lost a doctor. He is the son of a respectable family. We are asking for the establishment of a commission of inquiry. The guy went to pray. He went to prayer and returned lifeless. We don't accept the police version," the statement said. 

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella group of leaders of the Arab community, also called for a one-day general strike. 

Committee chairperson, former Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh, spoke with Army Radio on Sunday morning, saying, “This isn’t a case of conflicting versions – there is a regime body that murdered a citizen in cold blood. The burden of proof is on the police.” 

Ta’al party Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi compared the killing of El-Asibi to the police killings of Yaqoub Abu Al-Qia’an and Iyad Halak. Both were killed by police who initially claimed the suspects had reportedly attempted attacks, but then later admitting they had been killed in error. 

Tibi said that the police “kill twice – once by bullets, and a second time by smearing them as terrorists.” 

The Islamic Movement and the Ra'am party issued a statement in Arabic: "Dr. Mohammed al-Osaibi Shahid al-Aqsa was murdered in cold blood by the occupation police in al-Aqsa. He didn't snatch a weapon and the police story is a lie." 

The police maintain that the area in which the attack took place is not under direct surveillance.

"All the security cameras were checked in the area and, unfortunately, the attack itself was not recorded on the security cameras or body cameras of the police officers who, in those seconds, fought the terrorist and acted to neutralize him,” according to the police statement.

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai confirmed the statement, saying, "The picture is clear – I have no doubt that this was an attack carried out against police officers." 

Retired Major General Yair Yitzhaki, who previously served as commander of the Jerusalem District, said it was impossible for the incident not to have been documented.

Another former police commander said, “The place is flooded with cameras, so unless there was a system malfunction, I find it hard to believe that they did not record the shooting.” 

An unnamed Arab witness claimed that police were harassing a woman and that when El-Asibi intervened, he was shot. 

The police also claim the idea that the entire Old City is under constant surveillance is not true. 

N12 news released several photos of the Old City showing that there are several “dead zones” in which the security cameras are not able to record. The location of the shooting is in one of those “dead zones”. 

While several Hebrew news sites immediately questioned the lack of body camera footage, the police said that the body cameras have to be activated by police officers. That action usually happens when police make the decision to stop someone for questioning. 

The police said that when they initially questioned El-Asibi, they did not suspect him and therefore none of the officers activated their body cameras. 

An initial investigation by the Jerusalem District police found no discrepancies between the accounts of the officers involved in the incident. The investigation took accounts from Jerusalem District Israel Police officers, as well as two Border Police officers who were also at the scene. The investigation also found that there was evidence to match the officers’ accounts. 

Since that investigation is not considered sufficient in itself, because it was handled by the district from which the officers came, there will be a separate investigation by an external team of the Police Investigation Department (DIP). 

The police also released a statement saying they had information showing the suspect had recently become “very strong religiously” and noted that one of his social media accounts was deleted after the attack “for reasons that have not yet been clarified.” 

Despite the attack, police were able to maintain order Sunday morning 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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