On the evening of his seventeenth birthday (December 12, 2012), Muhammad Awad Salaymeh was shot with live bullets and killed at the military checkpoint next to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Salaymeh, studied with the Palestinian Circus School for nearly two years, and also represented Palestine in international wrestling tournaments and had won gold and silver medals.
On December 17th, five days after his shooting, the Israeli Military released a video that documents the moments of the shooting. This video contradicts the many versions of his killing that were presented by Israeli media outlets following the incident based on army and border police statements and lay doubt to what the IDF wanted to prove by this video: That Salaymeh consisted a real danger to the soldiers and therefore was shot many times.
In the video, we see Salaymeh approaching the checkpoint and giving something (probably ID) to the soldier. We see Salaymeh approaching the soldier who is now in a different location and he begins a fist fight with the soldier. A few seconds later, a female soldier comes out of the cabin and walks toward them while another soldier comes from the right side of the screen and holds Salaymeh. The first soldier runs to the right side, and the second soldier moves away from Salaymeh as the female soldier shoots him.
Before analyzing the video, let us go through some of the articles published in Israeli media on the night of the incident:
Channel 2 published on 12/12/12 19:55: the soldier asked for Salaymeh’s ID, salaymeh gave it to him (that is seen in min 0:21 in the video), while the soldier was checking the ID, Salaymeh started attacking the soldier. The soldier fell down and Salaymeh pulled a gun. Then the female soldier shot Salaymeh twice.
Few hours later Channel 2 published on 12/12/12 23:51 another article: the female soldier explained that Salaymeh attacked one of the soldiers and beat him. She shot him when he pulled a gun that she thought was real and was sure he constituted a real danger to the lives of the soldiers present.
Walla news website published on 12.12.2012 23:19: the female soldier was busy searching a Palestinian when she heard sounds of fighting outside. What she saw was a Palestinian attacking a Border Police Officer and pulling a gun from his back pocket. “He was fighting with the border policeman, and I quickly cocked my weapon. I looked for the right angle and I realized I had a few seconds as my friend could be hurt. I shot three bullets and the Palestinian fell.” (Please note there is no mention of a third soldier in the scene). The website also mentioned that the Border Policeman asked for Salaymeh’s ID and it was then, according to testimonies, that Salaymeh started fist fighting with the policeman and pulled out a gun. The female border police opened fire quickly and neutralized him.
Haaretz website published on 12.12.2012 20:25: Salaymeh attacked the policeman, knocked him to the ground and pulled out a gun. Female soldier that was present shot Salaymeh and killed him. After the incident was over, it turned out the gun the Palestinian carried was fake.
NRG website published on 12/12/2012 19:56: Border Policeman asked Salaymeh for the ID, and while he was checking it, Salaymeh pulled a gun and pressed it to border policeman’s temple. The border policewoman saw that her colleague‘s life is in danger and shot the Palestinian. The police stated in this article that the way the border policewoman acted was right, as “She made accurate in shooting to neutralize the danger in which her colleague was and the danger in which she found herself.”
Now let us move to the video, here are my comments and analysis:
1. This video was only released to Arabic audiences (on the Arabic Channel of the IDF with Arabic caption). What is the army’s aim with this move? To create confusion? To make Palestinians blame the guy for his death? To deter others from any contact with the soldiers? Or just because they simply know that no one cared for what happened except for Palestinians and that the incident did not really matter to the outside world? After all, the case was not covered in international media. As for the Israeli media, even when they covered this video, they did not raise any doubts like (Haaretz), who said this video is in accordance with the version the army had given following the incident. They did not bother to examine the story they have given to their readers that: the Palestinian attacked the policeman, knocked him to the ground and pulled out a gun, a gun which later revealed to be fake. Other outlets mentioned the gun can’t be seen in the video but without pointing out the contradictions or investigating further (see Ynet and Channel 2).
2. It can be obviously seen that the video is missing some frames at second 00:22. Salaymeh and the soldiers are in one position and suddenly jump a few steps ahead. We don’t understand what happened in the missing part, how long it is, and more importantly why it was cut!
3. Salaymeh was controlled for moments by the two soldiers, the one he was fighting with and another who came from behind, as they held him. However the soldiers moved away to allow the female soldier to shoot him three shots, one after the other. Let us assume “she had no choice” but to shoot, isn’t one shot enough to control him? Especially that after the first shot he already was in pain and barely standing.
4. It’s hard to determine the times Salaymeh was shot, if you follow minutes 0:48-0:51 you can count at least 4 bullets. One bullet came from the right side of Salaymeh. The source is not clear since a caption appears suddenly on the top-right of the video and hides the scene. The story that went out was that the female soldier was the only one who shot him.
5. The army claims that at one point Salaymeh was pointing a gun at the soldier, in another he knocked the soldier down and pointed a gun at him, and in a third version that he placed the gun at the soldier’s temple. The video does not show any of these versions. It seems like Salaymeh was fist fighting with his hands without any gun. Again, where is the gun he “pulled from his back pocket”?
6. It is not clear why Salaymeh was attacking the soldier and it is not understood from the video. An eyewitness claims (not confirmed) that the soldier took from Salaymeh the plastic gun and he wanted it back. This made Salaymeh angry and drove him to attack the soldier. This is one speculation though it is not important. What is important, and what the video shows, that there is no justification for shooting Salaymeh at least four times.
This is only one example of how the Israeli army’s versions and propaganda spread through Israeli media following incidents without efforts by any news outlets to verify or question these versions. It is also another example of how the killing of Palestinians is always legitimized.
Gratitude to @maathmusleh and @Issaamro who have helped to put this out.