When 26-year-old Mohammad Mousa left his home in the small village of Deir Ballut in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday morning to renew his driver’s license, his family never expected him to return several days later in a plastic body bag.
“I remember what my son was wearing and how he smelled that day,” Abdallah, Mousa’s grieving father, told Al Jazeera.
“He finished building his home, he was buying a new vehicle, and after the olive harvest he was planning on getting engaged,” he said. “I lost my senses when I heard the news. I lost my mind. Only God can understand how we are feeling right now.”
Hundreds of Palestinians attended Mousa’s funeral on Friday, after Israel released his remains to the family almost four days after he was fatally shot by Israeli forces.
Shortly before the incident, Mousa was on his way to Ramallah city with his 33-year-old sister, Latifa. He was driving a car with an Israeli license plate – which is illegal for Palestinians with West Bank ID cards – when the siblings turned a corner and unexpectedly met an Israeli “flying” checkpoint at a junction near Israel’s illegal Halamish settlement, adjacent to the village of Nabi Saleh.
Local media reported that Israeli forces motioned for Mousa to stop, but he continued past the checkpoint. Israeli forces then opened fire on Mousa’s car.
‘Shot from the back’
Mousa was allegedly shot in the back and succumbed to his wounds at Israel’s Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Latifa, meanwhile, was struck by a bullet in the shoulder. Although her wounds are moderate, she has remained at Istishari Hospital in Ramallah and underwent surgery on Friday.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Al Jazeera that Mousa was killed after driving “in a suspicious manner”.
“The troops signalled for the vehicle to halt. Upon the driver’s continuous advance and failure to comply with the troops’ instructions, shots were fired,” she said, noting that the incident was under review.
Tahseen Elayyan, who heads the monitoring and documentation department at the Palestinian human rights NGO al-Haq, told Al Jazeera that the group’s initial investigation revealed that a series of bullets had struck the front and back of the vehicle. The group concluded that Israeli soldiers were continuously shooting at Mousa’s vehicle as it passed the checkpoint.
Bassam, Mousa’s uncle, told Al Jazeera that the full autopsy results have not yet been disclosed. However, based on the wounds on his body, “it’s clear he was shot from the back, because the bullet entered the back of his waist and exited from the front.”
Bassam described Mousa as a kind and simple man who did not involve himself in politics. The village itself is well-known to be non-political, he added, noting that Israeli soldiers had even given the village the nickname “peaceful town”.
Abdallah told Al Jazeera that the family would focus on obtaining justice for Mousa through legal avenues, saying the excessive violence was extremely disturbing. “They could have shot the tires to stop the car, but they wanted to kill him,” Bassam said.
Elayyan said the case is just one among scores of incidents in which Israeli soldiers and officers use lethal force on Palestinians who are not posing an immediate threat. Out of hundreds of cases in which Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces over the past two years, most “could have been easily avoided”, he said.
Such cases “qualify as extrajudicial killings” and indicate that Israeli forces “follow a shoot to kill policy”, Elayyan said – and Israeli forces rarely face accountability.
“Even in the very few cases where Israelis appeared before Israeli courts, sentences were not proportionate [to the crime],” he said.
Such impunity is the reason his nephew is dead, Bassam said. “The Israelis are never punished. It allows them to treat us as if we are chickens – like we are not human. And this is what gives them the courage to kill us.”