‘Rumors’ of Misconduct in Umm al-Hiran Incident ‘Disinformation,’ Police Say

A general view shows Israeli police and residents following clashes in Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the Negev, last month. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

Rumors that the Police Internal Affairs unit has determined that police acted improperly last month when they shot and killed a Bedouin driver in Umm al-Hiran last month are incorrect, a police spokesperson said Wednesday. “The Israel Police cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, as this one is,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We are awaiting the full publication of the report before commenting. The information that has been spread in the media is full of disinformation and inaccuracies.”

According to the reports, the Internal Affairs Unit has determined that police who were involved in the shooting death of Yaakub Musa Abu Al-Kian on January 18th, as police were securing a demolition project of illegal structures in the Bedouin Negev village, “shot too soon and acted in a disproportionate manner. Officers who shot Al-Kian failed to take into account all circumstances, and to consult with others at the scene,” according to a purported section of the report that was leaked to the media Wednesday morning.

Al-Kian was behind the wheel of the vehicle that rammed into a group of police officers who were guarding the demolition crew from a rioting mob. Killed in that incident was police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, Hy”d. 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, and in fact lost control of the vehicle when he was shot by police. An autopsy was conducted, but the results were not conclusive.

Also injured in the riot was United Arab List head MK Ayman Odeh , who claimed he was struck by a police bullet as he protested the demolition of the illegally built structures. It turned out that Odeh was actually injured by a rock thrown by a Bedouin rioter. “From the beginning we said that it was not clear what injured Odeh, but what is clear is his responsibility for his own injuries,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said. “He was the one who headed the violent mob that fought with police after an officer was killed. I suggest that reporters read the report before publicizing the version of this rabble rouser,” he told the reporters.

Meanwhile, the reports Wednesday should not be taken as the last word, Israel Police Commander Roni Alshech said. “I am not going to comment on this report. So far, the Internal Affairs Unit has not made any determinations. I cannot be responsible for these unofficial rumors. There is still a lot of information they have to process. Unlike others, we are going to obey the law and refrain from commenting on a leaked confidential investigation until it is officially over.”

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