Jerusalem – The Jerusalem police released footage of the shooting incident on Friday near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City in order to dispel allegations that Ahmed Mahmoud el-Khatib was shot to death for no reason.
The edited film released by the police proves that el-Khatib, 27, a resident of Kafr Manda, snatched security guard Michael Popov’s firearm without any preceding argument between them, contrary to what was said by local Muslim residents. The film also contradicts the allegations of el-Khatib’s family, who said that their son was murdered in cold blood.
In the short clip, Alex Neslevitch and Popov, two security guards of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, are seen walking down Christian Quarter Road in the Old City. El-Khatib is seen following the two dressed in a white shirt and black pants. When the two approach one of the stores on the street, el-Khatib draws close to Popov and snatches his gun from him with great ease. Popov immediately runs toward him, el-Khatib tries to fire, but discovers that the gun has its safety catch on. El-Khatib finally manages to release the safety and hits Popov, who falls to the floor. Neslevitch pursues el-Khatib, and a firefight breaks out between the two, until el-Khatib is hit and falls to the floor, but continues to shoot at Neslevitch. The moment when el-Khatib is shot to death is not seen in the film.
“The film proves that what we said and what the security guards stated conforms to reality,” said Cmdr. Ilan Franko, commander of the Jerusalem District Police. “In the film it can be seen clearly that the terrorist followed the security guards for some time, seized the opportunity and stole the gun. He is the one who initiated the snatching.
“The film also shows that even after the terrorist was hit, he continued to shoot at the security guard and continued to pose a danger.”
In a few days, Israel Police Commissioner Inspector-General Dudi Cohen will give a certificate of commendation to Neslevitch for his action. Neslevitch, 22, a resident of Petah Tikva, told Yedioth Ahronoth: “I don’t feel like a hero. I felt I was acting naturally in those moments.”
Thousands participated on Sunday in el-Khatib’s funeral at Kafr Manda. The participants, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, carried flags of the Islamic Movement and placards that said: “We will neither forgive nor forget.” “My son was killed in cold blood,” said el-Khatib’s father, Mahmoud. “How would my son know how to shoot a gun?” One of el-Khatib’s acquaintances added: “About two years ago, an order was issued against him barring him from entering Jerusalem after he clashed with police officers, threw stones at them and participated in a demonstration. This time he didn’t take an identity card with him, apparently so that he wouldn’t be identified. I am sure he became stressed and wanted to defend himself.”
Arab-Israeli Organization Takes Responsibility
The “Free People of the Galilee” organization took responsibility on Sunday for the attempted gun snatching on Friday, and the statement they issued said that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Fatah and Islamic Jihad had no connection to the incident.
The Free People of the Galilee appeared in the headlines the first time following the murder of Israeli soldier Oleg Sheichat in July 2003. Their involvement was alleged in the stabbing of a soldier at the Golani junction, which turned out not to be true.
Since the kidnapping and murder of Sheichat, elements calling themselves the Free People of the Galilee, with or without the word “Brigades,” often take responsibility for incidents of a security or nationalist nature.
In January 2005, people who said they belonged to the organization sent a flyer to the media, taking responsibility for the kidnapping of Dana Bennet. In the flyer they demanded the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for information on the girl’s fate.
In October 2005, they took responsibility for the murder of Katy David, 27, from Netanya, who had worked as a guard.
It is not known what motivated Ahmed Khatib, married and the father of an infant, to snatch the weapon from the guard in the Old City, nor is it known whether he acted alone or belonged to any armed organization.
An Israeli policeman claims that el-Khatib was one of dozens of men who attacked several police and volunteers two weeks ago as they were enforcing traffic law at the entrance to Kafr Manda.
Hamas War Rages
In Southern West Bank
The Middle East Newsline has also confirmed that Hamas has been waging a silent war in the southern West Bank.
Palestinian Authority (PA) security sources said Hamas has established operational and reconnaissance cells that targeted Fatah and PA figures in the southern West Bank. The sources said Hamas squads have attacked key PA figures, particularly security commanders.
“In many areas of the south, Hamas has penetrated the security forces,” a PA security source said.
Hamas has been most successful in the Hebron region. Hamas has been waging revenge attacks against the PA in wake of Fatah-ordered sweeps of Islamic strongholds.
On Aug. 11, Hamas agents shot 17 times and injured Halhoul police chief Col. Driss Jabari. Jabari was attacked at his home in Halhoul, the northern suburb of Hebron, and taken to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem.
Palestinian sources said the attack came in wake of the detention of 10 Hamas operatives in Halhoul. Brig. Gen. Majid Hawari, director of the Hebron governorate police service, said there have not been any arrests in the attack on Jabari.
Palestinian sources said Hamas has warned PA forces to halt their crackdown on the Islamic movement, threatening to escalate attacks.
Syria’s Defensive Shield
Syria currently holds the densest anti-aircraft array in the world, stated a senior military source in Israel, in light of Syria’s continued acquisition of Russian weapons systems. According to one estimate, the Syrians hold about 200 anti-aircraft batteries of different models.
In an attempt to provide a response to the absolute superiority of the Israel Air Force (IAF), Syria has been making supreme efforts in recent years to improve its ability in the area of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles.
The Syrian race to purchase anti-aircraft weapons is one of the prominent signs of Syrian deployment for a possible confrontation with Israel. The source noted that Syria has studied well the performance of the IAF in the Second Lebanon War and is investing huge sums in anti-aircraft systems, mainly for defending strategic sites.
The Israel Institute for National Strategic Studies has recently published a report titled “Buildup of the Syrian Army,” in which researcher Yiftah Shafir writes that the anti-aircraft deals between Syria and Russia include “Strelets” (SA-24) missile systems, a light armored vehicle that carries four Igla-S shoulder-launched missiles, of one of the most advanced types that exist on the market today.
In addition, Syria purchased between 36 and 50 Pantsyr-S1 (SA-22) systems, which combine missiles and artillery guns and has only recently completed its development stages. It is mounted on a vehicle with high mobility and includes a 12-missile launcher. Each missile weighs 65 kilograms and includes a 16-kilogram warhead. The Syrians have also upgraded their older anti-aircraft systems, such as the SA-3 and the SA-6.
According to the report, the Syrians are interested in purchasing from the Russians S-300 long-range air defense systems and SA-11 and SA-17 mobile medium-range air defense systems. The S-300, among the most advanced missiles in use by the Russian army, is capable of intercepting planes at ranges of several dozen kilometers with great accuracy, thanks to a sophisticated radar system combined with special sensors on the missile itself.
The Syrian army currently holds sophisticated air defense systems for intercepting planes both at short and long ranges.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007