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Jerusalem: Israel acquits two police officers over killing of Palestinian

Officers in line for public medals following shooting of Mohammad Shawkat Salima, who allegedly stabbed an Israeli settler
Mohammad Shawkat Salima, a 25-year-old Palestinian from Salfit, was shot dead by Israeli police in occupied East Jerusalem on 4 December (Social media)

Israel's internal police investigations department acquitted two police officers on Thursday over the killing of a Palestinian as he lay on the ground near occupied East Jerusalem's Damascus Gate.

On Saturday, Israeli military police, one man and one woman, shot dead 25-year-old Mohammad Shawkat Salima after he allegedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli settler. 

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Footage from the scene shows two soldiers shooting Salima at close range at least twice while he lies on the ground. Salima was from Salfit, in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli police internal investigations department, known as Machash, said the shooting by the police officers was "justified," and that no charges were to be raised against them.

Israel's attorney general, Amit Isman, approved the decision to close the investigation.

Israel’s justice ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the incident "took place over mere seconds, in circumstances in which there was a real and concrete threat to the lives of the fighters and the civilians in the area".

It added that it closed the case after questioning the policemen, saying the use of weapons was "legally justified”.

Machash's investigations did not exceed two hours. A police chief intends to reward the officers with "medals of honor".

Israeli politicians have praised the police officers. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that they "acted very quickly and decisively, as expected of Israeli police, against a terrorist who tried to murder an Israeli citizen".

Adalah, a rights group, said in a statement that "the praising and show of support for the officers by senior political and legal figures substantiate a policy of extrajudicial execution.

"It is difficult to imagine a serious and exhaustive investigation when the prime minister, the minister of public security and the commissioner-general praise the officers on their actions before the investigation even began," it added

The Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned the killing of Salima last week, calling it "a documented war crime".

"This crime comes in the context of continuous Israeli escalation against our people, and it is a continuation of series of daily killings that cannot be tolerated," the PA said.

Settlers in Sheikh Jarrah

On Wednesday, a 15-year-Palestinian girl attempted to stab a 25-year-old Israeli woman in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Israeli forces stormed two schools in East Jerusalem after the incident and arrested Nifuz Hammad in a classroom, along with another female student, a teacher and the headmistress.

Israel uses settler violence as 'tool' to take Palestinian land: B'Tselem
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The Hammad family faces Israeli eviction orders from their home to make way for Israeli settler groups.

Palestinian and Israeli media reported that the Israeli woman was a settler living in a house close to the Hammads in Sheikh Jarrah, a significant flashpoint in East Jerusalem. 

Hours after the stabbing attempt, hundreds of far-right settlers marched in Sheikh Jarrah carrying flags and chanting "Death to Arabs", while Israeli police closed the entrances to the neighbourhood and prevented journalists and Palestinians from entering.

Palestinians have called for a mass march to al-Aqsa Mosque in the early hours on Friday morning amid rising tension in the city.

Last week, Israeli police forces killed a Palestinian man, identified as 42-year-old Fadi Abu Shukhaidem, from the Shuafat neighbourhood, for allegedly shooting dead an Israeli and wounding two others in the Old City.

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