An unnecessary + brutal death in downtown East Jerusalem

The facts are not all in yet.

But it is, clearly, a tragedy.

One thing seems clear: a man (his name was Ziad al-Jolani, a 41-year-old father of three young daughters) was killed in Wadi Joz, a neighborhood of downtown East Jerusalem, on Friday around the time of Friday weekly prayers in the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem — for which occasion, this week, there was a special Israeli security alert with special restrictions on attendance, just in case there might be an unrestrained reaction to the Israeli naval assault at sea on Monday 31 May on six ships in a Freedom Flotilla whose intention was to head to Gaza, and the subsequent interdiction and confiscation five days later of a seventh ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, last Friday 4 June.

As part of the Israeli security preparations, Israeli Border Police had formed a “flying checkpoint” (complete with metal police barricades, apparently), to slow down and stop any “suspicious” traffic.

Ziad was driving a small white truck, and something happened. It is not yet clear what.

Most unfortunately, the Israeli Border Police thought they knew what it was: a terror attack. They say that Ziad tried to use his vehicle to run them over, to kill them.

They ordered him to stop, but he did not. So, they say, they shot him.

But there were plenty of other police forces deployed around East Jerusalem at that time, and if Ziad had escaped capture there, he surely could have been stopped, easily, by other nearby forces, with a minimum of radio communication and coordination… He was not armed, and the justification for shooting is not convincing.

UPDATE: a family photo of Ziad and his youngest daughter posted on the Mondoweiss blog

Ziad al-Julani and his youngest daughter
Ziad al-Julani and his youngest daughter

Wadi Joz is gritty small industrial and residential zone in the valley between the Mount of Olives and the main commercial center of East Jerusalem on Salah ed-Dine Street (the Fifth Avenue or Champs Elysees of East Jerusalem).

It is also right next to the Jarrah neighborhood, where Jewish Israeli settler are working to evict Palestinian families (many of them refugees from the 1948 fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel) from 28 homes (many of them built by UNRWA on land allocated by Jordanian authorities) in order to build an apartment complex for 200 young Jewish families in an effort to mark what they hope will be a triumphant restoration of Jewish rights in Jerusalem.

In fact, a few hours later, apparently oblivious to the tragedy that had just occurred, some  Israeli Jewish demonstrators marched with drums, and signs in Hebrew, and rainbow colors, and tight-fitting low-cut tank tops, from the Old City’s Damascus Gate to the regular Friday afternoon Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations — passing down through the residential part of Wadi Joz neighborhood very near where the Border Police shot so freely, and where Ziad was killed, before coming up to Sheikh Jarrah on the east, only to face a wall of Border Police (much more relaxed with these Jewish Israeli demonstrators) and being redirected around to join the main group in the small municipal playground built in recent years on the western side of Nablus Road:

Haaretz reported today that “The man [Ziad] reportedly struck the two officers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz, drove on for a short distance and then tried to flee on foot. He ignored a police call to halt and was shot when it was clear he had ignored their instructions, the police said. The two Border Police reportedly sustained light injuries. The Palestinian was picked up the Red Crescent emergency service, and it took time for an official confirmation of his death”. This report is posted here.

This is in downtown East Jerusalem. It is not a war zone. It is not a conflict zone. It is a subdued occupied area. There is not even an intifada going on.

A five-year-old child waiting in a nearby parked car was shot wounded by a stray bullet.

“He [Ziad] ignored a police call to halt and was shot when it was clear he had ignored their instructions, the police said” — this is not a usual policing modus operandi in a crowded residential area, on a weekend day of rest, at around the time of the Friday prayers, on somebody that was, like others in the area, clearly surprised by the sudden appearance of a “flying checkpoint” in the neighborhood.

Palestine Monitor’s Kara Newhouse visited the scene Friday evening, and reported, in a Palestine Monitor article entitled “Blood in the streets of Wadi Joz” that “Four boys of ages 13 and 14 appear, spot us, and begin beckoning us down the side street where they are standing … Before long the oldest in the group has thrown his cell phone in front of my eyes, displaying the wounded face of the day’s victim. Several of the boys had taken snapshots of Al-Julani as his body was taken away by an ambulance … [W]e encounter an adult who speaks English well enough to translate the testimony of Nawras, age 14, who lives on the street and witnessed the shooting. Nawras tells us standing at his front door meters away from the street when he saw Israeli soldiers shooting at Al-Julani’s vehicle. He reported that when Al-Julani reached the corner he left the car and four soldiers shot at him, hitting his lower back. Al-Julani fell to the ground, and the soldiers gathered next to him. One soldier shot him three times in the head, according to the boy. When a neighbour [n.b., he is apparently a cousin of Ziad] tried to assist Al-Julani, the soldiers beat him back with their guns. Nawras also said that they hit some women as they blocked off the street and searched Al-Julani’s vehicle … Israeli police had enforced a limited access policy for Palestinian men under 40 travelling to the Al-Aqsa Mosque that morning, and Wadi Joz neighbourhood residents told us that the shooting took place in the midst of large crowds returning from Friday prayer in the nearby Old City. A shopkeeper on the main street said he saw Israeli soldiers chasing ten people were shouting about the recent flotilla massacre prior to the arrival of Al-Julani’s vehicle. ‘Look, it’s every Friday like that. It’s normal. The people and the army are like Tom and Jerry’, said the shopkeeper, who identified himself solely as Ahmed. ‘But when they shot, I didn’t know what’s going on’. Ahmed speculated that the vehicle was malfunctioning, claiming out that the prevalence of Palestinian residents in the street would prevent the driver from attempting to harm Israeli forces there. A taxi driver named Subhi, confirmed the presence of large numbers of people and soldiers in the street. He said he was moving his car off the main street to avoid damage at the time of the shooting. ‘I heard the bullets. I saw my small kids. I left the car, with engine switched on. I took the kids and ran away to the house. The man they killed, he was just two or three meters behind me’.  Subhi said that the police and soldiers stayed for an about an hour, and after they left he and his neighbours found more than twenty bullet shells in the street. He also pointed out holes in his trunk and passenger seat where bullets penetrated his car. Injuries sustained by others during the incident remain unclear, though Al-Jazeera reports one woman seriously injured and two other men wounded”.  This reportage was published here.

Photos taken by Kara Newhouse at the scene hours after the killing, and published with her reportage on Palestine Monitor, show the close quarters in which Border Police were shooting a suspect (the tire in the first photo was from Ziad Julani’s truck, which was searched and then removed by Israeli authorities):

Wadi Joz hours after killing of Ziad Julani - photo by Kara Newhouse

Wadi Joz across the street from where Ziad Julani's truck was stopped as he was shot by Border Police - photo by Kara Newhouse

The Associated Press reported that “Police were investigating the incident and the 41-year-old driver’s background before determining whether to treat the case as a politically motivated attack against police or a hit-and-run accident, national police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said”.

Meanwhile, of course, Ziad is dead. His wife is a widow. His three young daughters are terrified and will grow up without their father, who has suddenly been accused of being a “terrorist”.

The Mondoweiss blog reported, in post partly titled “Now whose story should you believe“, that a friend of Al-Julani’s said “Ziad Jilani was a very family oriented man, a loving husband and a devoted father. No one who knew him believes that he intentionally tried to hit the border police at the checkpoint. I heard that a stone hit his car and caused him to swerve, starting the whole horrific chain of events. I don’t know the whole story, but his wife told me that before her husband left the house that morning, they had discussed taking the kids out someplace that afternoon. This was no premeditated attack”. This is published here.

The AP story continued: “The officers were slightly wounded. The Palestinian, Zeyad [Ziad] Joulani, continued driving after hitting the officers, then abandoned his car and tried to flee on foot, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. When he ignored an order by other police officers to stop, they shot him, Ben-Ruby said. He later died of his wounds. Joulani was driving another man who apparently had been injured in a stone-throwing incident in the area beforehand, Ben-Ruby said”.  This AP story is posted here.

Ma’an news agency reported that “According to testimony compiled by the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, an initial shot knocked Al-Julani to the floor, after which Israeli Special Forces ‘fired shots in the face and abdomen at close range’ … Ahmad Qutteneh told the center he saw Al-Julani running from four members of Israel’s Special Forces, approaching him and opening fire at close range. ‘Then I saw one of them come near him and shoot him in the face and body’, Qutteneh told the center … Mahmud Othman Al-Julani, 34, his cousin, told the center that he was home when the incident happened, near the site of Al-Julani’s death, he said. ‘I went out of the house to see him laid on the floor, 15 meters away from me. When I tried to help him they [Israeli forces] beat me with sticks’, the center quoted him as saying … The center called on Israeli authorities to investigate Al-Julani’s death … Following the shooting, clashes erupted in the area”… This Ma’an report is published in full here.

A very graphic photo published as the second of two in a spot on that webpage shows two large bullet wounds to the left cheek of Ziad’s face — one at the level of his ear, and the other at the level of his mouth. This is, of course, not the way normal police normally go about apprehending a possible traffic violator who — possibly, even probably accidentally — caused light injuries.

I was near that neighborhood at that time, and I noticed overhead the white Israeli security surveillance blimp hovering right over what seemed to be Wadi Joz.

From our files, a photo of the Jerusalem security blimp viewed from the Mount of Olives, looking across the Wadi Joz valley (not seen), to the West Jerusalem skyline.

Jerusalem security blimp

There should be plenty of monitoring and surveillance evidence gathered by the Israeli police to include in the coming investigation.

Many thanks to reader Alajnabiya for her input.

To be continued…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *