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B'Tselem investigation claims Israeli army erased footage of Palestinian's killing

The rights group says soldiers deleted video showing two Israeli settlers shooting and killing 23-year-old Mohammed Abdel Fattah
Israeli soldiers inspect cars at checkpoint in occupied West Bank (AFP/File)

An investigation released by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem on Sunday says that it found that the Israeli army destroyed evidence relating to the death of a Palestinian man who was shot and killed by Israeli settlers earlier this month in the northern occupied West Bank, and that it propagated a misleading version of events.

The Israeli army said at the time that 23-year-old Mohammed Abdel Fattah was shot dead on 3 April after he tried to carry out a stabbing attack on an Israeli settler in a car, who then shot him in self-defence.

Palestinian shot dead by Israeli settler in West Bank after 'attempted stabbing' 
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But witnesses told B’Tselem that Abdel Fattah had in fact been throwing stones at Israeli cars driving near the Palestinian village of Huwwara, in the Nablus district, when a settler pulled over after a stone hit his vehicle.

The settler who shot Abdel Fattah was identified by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as Joshua Sherman, a resident of the illegal Israel settlement of Elon Moreh and an activist on behalf of the Union of the Right-Wing Parties.

According to B'Tselem, Sherman fired two shots at Abdel Fattah while still in his car, before getting out and firing "several more shots" as the Palestinian stood crouching behind movable waste containers.

"A truck driving along the road also stopped, and the driver got out," B’Tselem's statement added.

"He came over to stand next to Sherman, and the two men fired several more shots at Abdel Fattah, who was lying wounded on the ground."

'Ensure that the truth never comes to light'

The Palestinian, a resident of the village of Khirbet Qeis and a father of one, reportedly succumbed to his wounds in an Israeli hospital.

Another Palestinian working in a nearby shop was also reportedly hit by a bullet to the abdomen, B’Tselem said.

"Minutes after the two settlers opened fire, Israeli military jeeps arrived on the scene and soldiers used stun grenades to disperse the crowd that had begun to gather," the NGO wrote.

"Immediately after that, about eight soldiers went into two nearby shops to check their security cameras."

According to witnesses, the soldiers filmed the security camera footage on their mobile phones, before erasing the video from the shops' DVRs.

B'Tselem denounced the actions of the army in the case, arguing that the fact that Sherman and the other settler were not detained, and that footage of the killing was destroyed, were efforts "to ensure that the truth never comes to light and the shooters would not face any charges or be held accountable in any way."

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 37 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces - not including Israeli civilians - since the beginning of the year.

Three Israelis have been killed by Palestinians during the same time frame.

Palestinians regularly accuse Israeli forces of smearing slain Palestinians by falsely claiming they constituted a deadly threat when they were killed.