Anshel Pfeffer | Ha’aretz
31 August 2009
A Military Police investigation into a soldier’s killing of a Palestinian near Hebron in January has been going on for seven and a half months, and there is still no end in sight. Yet the sector commander has been giving briefings for the past few months based on his own inquiry into the incident, which he describes as “a serious failure in moral and professional terms.”
On January 13, 2009, at the height of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, Yassir Tamizi, a resident of the village of Idna, was stopped by a patrol of reservists in the Hebron area and brought to an Israel Defense Forces post near Tarkumiya. The soldier guarding the entrance to the post was frightened by Tamizi, who was fighting his arrest because he was worried about his son, who had been left behind when he was taken away. The frightened soldier then shot Tamizi, who died a few hours later from his wounds.
The IDF opened a Military Police investigation, on its own initiative.
But seven and a half months later, no decision has been made over whether to charge the soldiers and officers involved.
At the same time, despite widely varying accounts of what happened, the sector commander, Hebron Brigade Commander Col. Udi Ben Moha, has already drawn his own conclusions based on inquiries he conducted into the event. Ben Moha presents these conclusions to all units operating in his sector.
Ben Moha said that at the beginning of Cast Lead, a reserve battalion was called up to replace the regular soldiers serving in the area. The patrol stopped Tamizi while he was working in a field near the separation fence. Since he did not have his identity card wit him, the soldiers decided to arrest him, even though his 7-year-old son was with him at the time. They put him in the jeep and left his son behind in the field.
The patrol then took Tamizi to the Tarkumiya post and left him – handcuffed and blindfolded – with the guard at the entrance to the post. They did not report the arrest to brigade or battalion headquarters.
Tamizi, who was worried about his son, tried to free himself from the handcuffs. He made a move toward the guard, who became alarmed and shot him three times. One bullet hit Tamizi in the chest, causing his death.
But soldiers from the company involved dispute Ben Moha’s version. They claim Tamizi violently resisted arrest in the field, refused to give them his identity number so they could check on him by radio, and went wild while still in the jeep. At the entrance to the post, they said, Tamizi managed to free his hands and tried to steal the guard’s weapon.
“There was no one to deal with the prisoner and no one to tell us what to do with him,” said one of the soldiers. “They are turning the guard into a scapegoat.”
The guard himself was questioned twice by the Military Police, the second time several months ago. He refused to speak with Haaretz.
The Military Police also questioned Palestinian witnesses, and the investigation has apparently been completed. However, no decision has yet been made on indictments.
The IDF Spokesman confirmed that the investigation is finished and said the case is now awaiting the military prosecution’s decision.
As for Ben Moha’s briefings, the spokesman said, it is normal for a sector commander to brief units new to the sector on recent events. However, at no point did he assign criminal responsibility to the soldier in question.