The Electronic Intifada / May 5, 2022
Israeli politicians may have illegally pressured police investigating five Jewish Israelis in the murder of a Palestinian citizen of Israel last year, according to materials released by a human rights group.
Moussa Hassouna, 31, was shot dead in Lydd on the night of 10-11 May last year.
Two other people were injured in the shooting.
A video obtained by Adalah, a legal advocacy organization for Palestinians in Israel, shows a conversation between two detectives that was unintentionally recorded following an interrogation on 12 May.
In the video, which can be seen below, one of the investigators claims that the head of a weapons lab refused to test the weapons recovered from suspects.
Sitting at a desk, the other investigator replies: “Oh really? Let him tell that to the minister who is calling every 10 minutes to check on the status of the case.”
The two police officers express incredulity at the lab director’s refusal to test the weapons so that they could try to determine the origin of the bullet removed from Hassouna’s body.
Without the tests, one officer says, it would be impossible to file charges. The officer calls the lab director “crazy” and claims he told her that “the tests in this case are my last priority.”
According to Adalah, the video and other investigative materials it examined, suggest that “prominent political leaders unlawfully pressured the police throughout the investigation.”
The minister in question is Amir Ohana, who was then in charge of public security. He tweeted on the same day the video was filmed that the “shooter and his friends in Lydd” had “acted in self-defense.” He claimed their arrest was “terrible.”
At the time he was apparently pressuring police behind the scenes, Ohana was publicly calling for the suspects’ release.
Ohana called the suspects “law-abiding citizens” who are “carrying weapons” a “force multiplier for the authorities for the immediate neutralization of threat and danger.”
Hassouna’s killing occurred in the context of the uprising across historic Palestine last May, including in Israel, and Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which left more than 250 Palestinians dead, including nearly 70 children.
Within cities across Israel, Jewish extremists used instant messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, to organize armed militias and mobs to attack Palestinians.
In those chats, Jewish Israelis engaged in virulent racism and incitement, discussed weapons and made plans about where to meet for attacks against Palestinians.
Investigative materials examined by Adalah indicate that there were six shooters.
Some of the shooters showed up for a protest organized by the extremist Garin Torani settler group – which seeks to Judaize cities with mixed Jewish and Palestinian populations. Others arrived after messages were posted on neighborhood WhatsApp groups calling on Jewish residents to arm themselves.
“They shot approximately 40 bullets within 15-20 minutes,” according to Adalah.
Less than three days following Hassouna’s killing, all the suspects were freed after they were “only interrogated once,” Adalah said.
In October 2021, the state’s attorney closed the cases against all five suspects. That action – a full five months after Hassouna’s killing – was the first time authorities provided his family with information about the investigation.
Four of the suspects were cleared of guilt, while the fifth was released supposedly due to insufficient evidence.
Adalah rejects suggestions that the suspects may have acted in self-defense, as they “did not face an imminent threat.” The group said such claims “must be assessed by judicial rather than law enforcement authorities.”
The vigilantes “gathered to discuss how they should ‘operate the incident’ until police arrived,” Adalah stated.
“Their conduct suggests that the suspects took the law into their own hands and acted as law enforcement until police arrived, which cannot be considered as acting in self-defense.”
The Times of Israel reported at the time that an initial investigation indicated “Hassouna was standing dozens of meters away from the Jewish suspects when he was shot.”
Adalah called the probe into Hassouna’s killing “a negligent, flawed investigation with the ultimate aim of clearing the suspects of any charge.”
The group sent a letter to Israel’s attorney general “demanding that a prompt investigation into the interference by political figures in the investigation be initiated.”
Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada