Family Demands Police Release Body of Driver Who Ran Down Officer in Negev

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli policemen stand guard as bulldozers demolish Bedouin dwellings, deemed by a court as having been built illegally on state-owned land in Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel’s southern Negev Desert, last Wednesday. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

The family of Yaakub Musa Abu Al-Kian, the driver of a vehicle who was shot to death after he rammed into police on Wednesday in the Negev Bedouin settlement of Umm al-Hiran, has filed a petition with the High Court for the release of Al-Kian’s body. The body is being held in the National Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv. The court will consider the petition on Monday.

Killed in the car-ramming attack in Umm al-Hiran as officials were preparing to demolish illegally built structures was police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, Hy”d. His death was the result of an apparent attempted car-ramming attack against a group of police officers, who were trying to keep the peace in the face of riots by residents, as authorities sought to demolish illegal structures. A jeep driven by Al-Kian sped in the direction of a group of police officers, whereupon officers opened fire on the vehicle, killing the driver and a second individual. One rioter was injured and taken to a Be’er Sheva hospital for treatment.

Police said that the driver was a member of an Islamist group, but this was denied by family members, and according to the family, the jeep did not try to ram into the officer, but instead Al-Kian was targeted and killed. The family has cited eyewitnesses who claimed that the driver lost control of the vehicle after police shot him, causing the vehicle to veer wildly into the crowd of officers.

According to the petition, the police have no right to hold onto the body. “The retention of the body is not only illegal, but also causes great hardship to the dignity of the dead and of the family, and is a radical violation of the responsibilities of the police. There is no compelling evidence to require the retention of the body, and it is being done out of illicit interests.”

Police disagreed, saying that they were treating the body as they would that of any terrorist, and that an autopsy was necessary in this case. According to Channel Two, an initial examination of the body indicated that Al-Kian died a significant amount of time after he was shot by police, meaning that he was not the direct target of police. A police internal affairs investigation is underway as well, and has so far determined that the shots fired by police were aimed not at the driver, but at the vehicle’s tires.

Footage that the family has produced of the event is inconclusive, with police seen moving toward the vehicle and firing, and the vehicle then ramming into them. It is not clear if the driver was alive or in control when the ramming took place.

The buildings that were demolished in Umm al-Hiran were among thousands for which demolition orders have been issued. The buildings were constructed on state land, without permits. Residents attempted to stop the demolitions, throwing rocks and firing shots at workers. Police responded by firing rubber bullets at the rioters.