Using 3D modelling and open-source analysis, an investigation by research agency Forensic Architecture refutes the Israeli army’s claims that the 26-year-old Palestinian was justifiably killed.
A report by Forensic Architecture said on Tuesday that Israel’s killing of a Palestininan man last year was an extrajudicial execution, challenging Israeli police claims that he was justifiably gunned down.
26-year-old Ahmad Erekat was killed on June 23, 2020 by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Israeli account claims he intended to run over an officer when his car hit a booth while driving through the checkpoint.
His family rejects the Israeli police’s account of how the killing took place, saying he was running errands for his sister’s wedding that day. They say planning such an attack would have been “impossible” as he was getting married himself later in the week.
The report by Forensic Architecture, a research body based at Goldsmith’s, University of London, was carried out in collaboration with Palestinian rights organisation, Al Haq. The study reconstructed the death scene and raised strong doubts that the crash was intentional. The investigation conducted a frame-by-frame analysis and concluded that Ahmad didn’t accelerate his car during the crash, but instead had been braking.
Israeli police claimed that Ahmad left the car and ran towards soldiers, but that account didn’t match the video records. Instead, security camera footage showed that Ahmad left the vehicle unarmed after hitting the booth and moved away from the soldiers, raising his hands in the air.
He was first shot four metres away from the closest soldier, and subsequently shot five times within two seconds even though he clearly “did not pose any immediate threat,” according to the investigation. The last three shots were fired when he was already lying on the ground.
“For months, our family has endured degrading attacks insisting our cousin Ahmad was justifiably gunned down at a checkpoint. Now Forensic Architecture and Al Haq organisation show just how cruel & malicious that accusation has been. Ahmad was executed,” Noura Erakat, Ahmad’s cousin and a human rights attorney, said in a tweet.
Degrading treatment of Ahmad’s body
The investigation reconstructed the death scene using open source investigation, including the photos and videos and 3D modelling. Shadow analysis also found there were grave violations after the shooting.
Ahmad was refused medical treatment for over an hour even though he was still alive, stripped completely naked while surrounded by around 20 military personnel and vehicles. This information does not match the Israeli military spokesperson's account that Ahmad received medical treatment within minutes.
“Ahmad’s body would have moved if he had received medical attention. It is therefore extremely unlikely that Ahmad was provided medical care—care that could have saved his life in those moments,” the report said.
“The practice of denying medical care is an act of ‘killing by time.’”
It’s unclear why Ahmad was stripped, as the report says the investigation team did not come across to any other incident where a slain Palestinian was fully undressed on-site by Israeli soldiers.
Despite the family’s objections and the video footage, the Israeli government didn’t open a formal investigation, and have not released an autopsy report.
Rights groups like B’tselem and Human Rights Watch argue that Israel aims to use Palestinian bodies as bargaining chips for future negotiations. Dozens of bodies of Palestinians are held by the country, says B’tselem.
Ahmad was the nephew of Saeb Erakat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).