Palestinians, rights group condemn Jerusalem ‘execution’




JERUSALEM– Palestinian officials and human rights groups have condemned the killing of a Palestinian man after he carried out a stabbing attack in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli police have released surveillance video from the site of the attack near Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday.

In the footage, the Palestinian, identified as 25-year-old Mohammad Salima, appears to stab an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man and then approaches an Israeli police officer before being shot and falling to the ground.

Other footage shot by bystanders appeared to show Israeli police officers continuing to shoot Salima from point-blank range while he was lying on the ground and not appearing to pose a threat.

Israel's Magen David Adom emergency service said the stabbing victim was a 20-year-old man who was taken to hospital in "moderate to severe condition".

The United Nation's Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it was "shocked by the apparent extra-judicial execution".

"Footage shows Mr Sleemah attacking a passerby and police officer with a knife before being shot and subdued. While on the ground and injured, Israeli forces shot Mr Sleemah twice, apparently killing him," it said in a statement.

"Extra-judicial killings such as this are the consequence of the regular resort to lethal force by well-armed and well-protected Israeli security personnel against Palestinians, and the almost total lack of accountability for killings and injuries of Palestinians by Israeli forces. Will there be accountability in this case? The UN Human Rights Office is monitoring the case further."

Israel's justice ministry said two police officers were brought in for questioning over the killing, according to Israeli media. The ministry's police investigations unit said the police officers were questioned shortly after the incident and released without conditions.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he "fully backs" the officers, saying in a statement they "operated as expected of Israeli officers".

Condemnations

The office of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said the shooting "was a continuity of Israel's ongoing aggression on the Palestinian people that should not be tolerated".

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned it as a "crime of execution" and called for it to be added to the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigation file into Israeli war crimes.

Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, wrote in a tweet: "Contrary to the sanitized terminology Israeli authorities and media use, the assailant wasn't "neutralized". He was summarily executed."

The killing of Salima has provoked a debate among politicians in Israel's parliament (Knesset).

Ofer Cassif, an MK with the Joint List, a predominantly Palestinian party, described the killing as "summary execution" and a "blatant war crime".

Aida Touma-Sliman, another Joint List MK, said: "Executing a man who no longer constitutes a threat is a horrible crime. This is the reality created by the occupation."

Esawi Freige, an MK with the left-wing Meretz party, said that shooting in such situations should be done only "to save lives, and not to take the lives of assailants who no longer pose danger". He added the footage of the incident highlights "an act that shows indifference to human lives".

Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, who oversees the police, said the officers had "a second or two" after the first shot to "determine whether the terrorist who was hit is going to set off an explosive belt," according to Israeli media reports.

The incident has drawn comparisons with a 2016 killing in which Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was caught on camera shooting a wounded 21-year-old Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, as he lay on the ground after he carried out a stabbing attack against a soldier in Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

The soldier later served two-thirds of a 14-month sentence after being convicted of reckless manslaughter.

Palestinian and international rights groups have long condemned what they see as a policy of shoot to kill and excessive use of force.

Ramallah-based rights group Al-Haq has said that such killings must be understood in the "broader context of Israel's widespread and systematic resort to lethal and other excessive force and a shoot-to-kill policy targeting Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line".

The group said it has noticed "a trend where the IOF [Israeli occupation forces] that are in a position to safely disable handheld objects and have controlled and subdued the alleged attacker, proceed to fatally shoot the Palestinian at a close proximity". (Mr/aje)

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