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Israelis protest after Arab national is killed at checkpoint

Friday, July 25, 2003

JERUSALEM -- An Arab-Israeli man was shot and killed at a checkpoint by Israeli Border Police Thursday in the second deadly incident of its kind in 48 hours, sparking a small-scale riot by angry residents who claimed that police are too quick to shoot at Palestinian-looking men in circumstances that do not warrant deadly force.

Nasser Mouhamad Abu Qiaan, 23, a father of three, was shot and killed in his car at about 11 a.m. by a Border Police officer at the rural Shoket intersection, near the city of Beersheba in the Negev area of southern Israel. Qiaan lived in Houra, a Bedouin village just west of the junction.

Four Palestinian men who apparently were in the car at the time of the shooting did not have permission to be in Israel, police said. They refused to say Thursday night whether the men were injured or arrested, or whether any weapons or other illegal items were found in the car.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting are under dispute, and the incident is being investigated by the Israeli Justice Ministry.

Two sides

Police said the incident occurred when a car being driven by Abu Qiaan approached a temporary police checkpoint at the Shoket junction, about six miles northeast of Beersheba and three miles from the southernmost border of the West Bank, and refused to stop.

"The car tried either to run over the plice or to escape - it is not clear yet," said chief superintendent Yossi Koppel of the Israeli National Police southern district. "And then came the shooting - either it was intentional or not. We are checking it out."

Palestinian witnesses quoted by the Israeli media said that Qiaan's car was cut off and forced to stop by two unmarked police cars. Ghazi Abu Qiaan, a cousin of the dead man who said he witnessed the incident, was quoted as saying that seven or eight police officers surrounded the car, but his cousin rolled up his windows and refused to get out.

He said a police officer then smashed the window of the car with the butt of his rifle and shot his cousin.

"We have collected eyewitness accounts from the event, and it is clear that the border policeman approached the vehicle, smashed the window and shot one bullet in the neck of the man," said Taleb Sana, an attorney and Bedouin member of Israel's parliament.

Reaching a hudna

"The police force is behaving in a brutal and racist manner. They are trigger-happy when it comes to Arab citizens," Sana charged. "The Israeli government has reached a hudna (cease-fire) with the Palestinian Authority but has not reached a hudna with its Arab citizens."

Witnesses reached by telephone said that after the shooting, dozens of angry residents from the area smashed police cars and threw stones at the police officers in protest. Koppel said that one officer was moderately injured when a rock hit his head and another was slightly injured in the hand.


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