Israeli police officer executes Palestinian at point-blank range

Maureen Clare Murphy

The Electronic Intifada  /  December 2, 2022

An Israeli Border Police officer shot and killed a Palestinian man at point-blank range in the town of Huwwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, on Friday.

The harrowing incident, captured on video recorded from multiple angles, comes days after Kobi Shabtai, Israel’s police chief, praised officers for killing a Palestinian who they allege carried out a car ramming attack at a checkpoint.

“A dead terrorist is what I want to see,” Shabtai said after Rani Mamoun Fayez Abu Ali, 45, was killed on Tuesday.

Shabtai’s comments are not the first from a senior officer encouraging field executions of Palestinians.

Human rights groups have long accused Israel’s civilian leadership, in the words of B’Tselem, of responsibility for “the transformation of police officers, and even of armed civilians, into judges and executioners” who slay Palestinians suspected of armed attacks in the streets.

The Palestinian executed in Huwwara on Friday was identified as Ammar Hamdi Nayef Miflih. Media outlets gave his age as 22 or 23.

Israel claimed that the shooting was in response to a stabbing attack, but video appears to show that Miflih was not holding anything in his hands when he was shot and killed.

And as the Tel Aviv-based newspaper Haaretz acknowledged, an eyewitness who was at the scene contradicted “the police’s version of events, saying that an armed settler who passed by the checkpoint provoked several people who were standing near a restaurant eating lunch, when a fight broke out between him and Ammar Miflih.”

Video of the moments before the shooting shows two men attempting to pull Miflih from the grasp of an Israeli Border Police officer before the officer succeeds in breaking away from the men with his arm around Miflih’s neck.

The video shows Miflih breaking away from the officer’s grip before he starts hitting the officer and grabbing at his rifle. In quick succession, the rifle drops to the ground – apparently from Miflih’s hands – and Miflih backs away from the soldier, who opens fire at Miflih with a handgun and then runs over to pick up his rifle.

At no time does Miflih appear to attempt to use the rifle or do anything other than defend himself from the armed Israeli officer. Notably, according to the account of a Palestinian eyewitness, Miflih had already been shot and injured by an Israeli settler prior to this struggle with the Border Police officer who eventually killed him.

Four shots can be heard in the video recordings of the incident:

One video shows the final shot fired at Miflih as the officer stands over him, indicating that the he intended to “confirm the kill”.

In any case, it is clear that Miflih did not pose an imminent threat to the officer as he kept shooting at him.

Palestinian outlets reported that Israeli forces prevented paramedics from providing medical care to Miflih before taking his body away.

Israel withholds the bodies of Palestinians killed during attacks and alleged and attempted attacks so that they may be used as bargaining chips in future negotiations.

Eyewitness account

The eyewitness – possibly the same one cited by Haaretz – described to Palestinian media the events leading up to Miflih’s execution.

He said that settlers in a car were harassing Miflih, who tried to open the car door, at which point “the settler drew his weapon and shot him, and shot at me, at my jeep.”

Then an Israeli officer approached “and instead of getting the settler away, he attacked the young man even more to finish him off, even though he was injured.”

It is at that point that the Palestinians scuffled with the officer as seen on video.

The officer “didn’t give him a chance to calm down, may God have mercy on him,” the eyewitness said.

“He [the officer] sprayed him with bullets. He let the settler just go on his way.”

The eyewitness said that Miflih “never even touched the settler, he just touched his car.”

Israeli media reported that “a Palestinian man attempted to attack an Israeli couple who were in their car near the Huwwara checkpoint with a knife. The driver of the car, an off-duty [Israeli military] officer, shot the man and wounded him.”

Haaretz added: “The suspect then proceeded to attack a group of Border Police officers who were in the area, stabbing one of them. The commander of the police force then charged the suspect, who attempted to take his weapon, and shot him dead, according to the statement.”

Israel’s police force attempted to back up this narrative with a series of tweets, including a partially blurred photo of a face with a wound on it, allegedly that of one of its officers, and another photo showing what the police claim is the knife used by the attacker.

Medical care denied

However, the Israeli police account contains at least one obvious lie where it states that “the terrorist was neutralized and his death was determined on the spot.”

Video shows that Miflih was in fact still alive after he was repeatedly shot by the Border Police officer and his life might have been saved had Israeli forces not obstructed medical care.

Israeli forces routinely deprive injured Palestinians of lifesaving medical care even after they pose no conceivable threat.

International law requires that such care be provided promptly and its wilful denial or obstruction may be a war crime.

Israeli media stated that the officer who shot Miflih and a Border Police officer who was allegedly stabbed were slightly injured.

Palestinian media published an image showing the face of the officer who killed Miflih.

Shabtai, the Israeli police chief, commended the actions of the officer, as did Amir Cohen, the commander of Israel’s Border Police.

Their quick endorsement of Miflih’s killing without even the pretense of an investigation will further reassure Israeli personnel that they can continue to kill Palestinians in almost any circumstances with impunity.

Around 20 Palestinians have been killed during attacks or alleged and attempted attacks in the West Bank and Israel so far this year, according to the UN monitoring group OCHA.

Some 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year. OCHA said that it’s been the deadliest month on average for Palestinians in the West Bank since the group started systematically tracking fatalities in 2005.

Around 30 people in Israel and Israelis in the West Bank were killed in Palestinian attacks during the same period.

Huwwara, a town near Nablus in the northern West Bank, is a flashpoint of occupation violence.

Settlers rampaged and attacked Palestinians and their property in Huwwara under the protection of Israeli soldiers during October.

Two Palestinians, both fighters with the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad resistance faction, were shot and killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin, also in the northern West Bank, on Thursday.

Additional bloodshed is all but guaranteed with the appointment of extremist right-wing Israelis representing the most dangerous elements of the settler movement to powerful ministerial roles.

Itamar Ben-Gvir – a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose genocidal teachings inspired the 1994 Ibrahimi mosque massacre of 29 Palestinian men and boys at the Hebron holy site by an American Jewish settler – has been tapped as Israel’s national security minister.

The newly created position is “an expanded public security minister role that includes oversight of the national police and Border Police in the West Bank,” The Times of Israel reported.

Ben-Gvir has instigated settler mobs in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem where settlers seek to force Palestinians from their homes.

During a settler rampage in Sheikh Jarrah in October, Ben-Gvir brandished a pistol and told the vigilantes that if Palestinians “throw stones, shoot them.”

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting and analysis