Family of Arab Israeli killed at Al-Aqsa dispute police claims
The family of an Arab Israeli medical student shot dead by police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem rejected claims Sunday by the force that he grabbed and fired an officer’s gun.
Medical student Mohammed al-Asibi was killed late Friday, hours after worshipers celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan held prayers at the holy site.
Israeli police said the 26-year-old “managed to take the gun (from an officer) and fire two shots” before officers shot him dead.
The force said on Sunday that Asibi’s DNA was found “on the (loading) slide and handle of the pistol”, providing “unequivocal” proof that officers acted “with courage”.
As mourners gathered Sunday in the Bedouin village of Asibi in Hura, in southern Israel, his family said he had traveled to Jerusalem only to pray.
“We reject the police story, which is false and slanderous,” said one of his sisters, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.
She described her brother as “a polite and well mannered person who loved to help others and (had) a peaceful personality”.
Raam, the Islamic party of the Israeli Parliament, noted in a Facebook post claims from “witnesses” who said Asibi went to the aid of a woman who was in a scuffle with the police.
Asibi was nearing the end of his medical studies in Romania and had just renewed his residence visa before his final exam, his family said.
Relatives told AFP that police raided their home after the shooting, questioned his parents and seized Asibi’s personal property.
The head of Hura’s municipal council, Habis al-Atawneh, said his community “all believe that the young man was executed.”
– No film shot –
Suspicions were raised about the shooting in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem, particularly because police said there was no footage of the shooting at the heavily guarded compound.
A police spokesman told AFP on Sunday that the incident happened in the blind spot of a surveillance camera, although the officer who grabbed Asibi did not have time to turn his body camera weapon on him.
Police earlier rejected the notion of a woman being involved, saying Asibi was at the mosque compound alone and thus “suspicion arose”.
“The police questioned him and asked him to leave the Temple Mount compound since it was after closing hours, and then they carried out the aforementioned attack,” their statement said, using the Jewish name for the site .
The compound in the Old City of Jerusalem is the holiest site for Jews and the third-holiest for Muslims.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “gave full support to the Israeli police for preventing the terrorist on the Temple Mount” on Sunday.
Waleed Alhwashla, from Raam, was among the Arab lawyers who attended Asibi’s funeral on Sunday.
He said parliamentarians were in contact with foreign diplomats to “internationalize the issue of the Arabs of the Negev (in southern Israel) and the issue of the martyr Mohammed.”
The Asibi Bedouin community is part of Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the population and many of whom identify as Palestinian.
Businesses in the village were closed on Sunday as residents went on strike to protest the killing of Asibi, an action also observed in other Arab-Israeli communities, according to local media.
Asibi is one of over a hundred people killed so far this year in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
His death came after a relative lull in violence since Ramadan began on March 23.
In addition, the conflict has claimed the lives of 88 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, since the beginning of the year.
Separately, fourteen Israelis, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian were killed over the same period, according to AFP tallies based on official sources from both sides.