Today marks the launch of the inaugural investigation by Forensic Architecture’s Palestine Unit using documentation primarily supplied by Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq. The case examines the extrajudicial killing of Ahmad Erekat, a 26-year-old Palestinian, casting serious doubt on the Israeli army’s claims that the incident was an intentional attack.
The investigation shows that Erekat was shot to death while posing no immediate threat and that Israeli soldiers offered no medical aid to Erekat after the shooting, even whilst he was clearly alive. His body was treated in an inhuman and degrading manner and later seized by the army to deny proper burial—an act of collective punishment.
To date, the Israeli army has not opened an investigation into the crash and continues to withhold most of the evidence.
In these ways, Erekat’s killing exposes an operating procedure which is recurrent throughout Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
Narrated by renowned political intellectual and anti-racist scholar Dr. Angela Davis, the investigation points to the entangled struggles of Palestinian and Black liberation.
On 23 June 2020, Ahmad Erekat, was shot by Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) after his car crashed into a booth at the ‘Container’ checkpoint—between Jerusalem and Bethlehem—in the occupied West Bank, in Palestine. According to his family, Erekat was in his car to run errands for his sister’s wedding, taking place on the same day.
The army claims that the crash was an intentional attack but has not produced any evidence that it was not the result of an error or malfunction.
Despite over a dozen security cameras at this checkpoint, the army released only a single video of the incident. Based on a spatial analysis of that video, we can determine that:
- Erekat’s car had constant acceleration at a fraction of its ability and impacted the soldier at a low speed of 15kmh despite the sharp slope. Supported by forensic collision expert Dr. Jeremy J. Bauer, we determine that Erekat used less than 5% of the car’s acceleration potential. The analysis also suggests the possibility that Erekat braked before impact with the checkpoint, raising doubts that this was an intentional attack.
- Our analysis contradicts the Israeli army’s claim that Erekat ’got out of the car and approached officers, who responded by shooting.’ We show that Erekat exits his vehicle unarmed, raised his hands in the air, moved away from the soldiers, and did not pose any immediate threat at the moment he was shot.
- Our analysis contradicts an Israeli military spokesperson statement that Erekat was provided with medical care ‘within minutes’ and shows that his body remained without medical assistance—and as Palestinian medical teams were denied access to the site by the army.
Together, the available visual evidence exposes major doubts in the army’s official claims surrounding the facts of the incident—claims that are employed to justify its withholding of Erekat’s body, refusing to return him to his family for proper burial. As a practice of collective punishment, this act makes Erekat one of seventy Palestinians whose bodies are now withheld.
- Video evidence reveals several features of Erekat’s car crash that cast doubt on the army’s claim of an intentional attack:
- low (15km/h) speed of impact;
- constant acceleration throughout, implying no sudden attempt to speed up;
- course-correction away from the checkpoint booth; and
- indications of possible braking just before impact.
- Video footage directly contradicts the claims made by the Israeli army. Erekat is visible exiting his vehicle unarmed, appearing to raise his hands in the air, while moving away from the soldiers. Standing around four metres from the nearest soldier, Erekat did not pose any immediate threat, but was shot around six times within two seconds.
- A Palestinian ambulance arrived at the scene around twenty minutes after the shooting but was denied access by the Israeli army. Instead, an Israeli ambulance was given access, but left the scene with only the wounded Israeli soldier.
- When the Israeli ambulance left the scene, Erekat’s body had not been moved for over 45 minutes.
- Over an hour-and-a-half after the shooting, Erekat’s body lay completely naked on the ground, surrounded by Israeli police and military personnel.
- The act of fully undressing a slain Palestinian on-site and leaving him exposed in an undignified manner may additionally amount to deliberate mistreatment of a body in violation of international humanitarian law.
“Our investigation is a response to the total lack of accountability of the Israeli occupation forces when it comes to the extrajudicial killing of Palestinians. It speaks to an ongoing pattern of behaviour by the Israeli army, where Palestinians are shot using lethal force, denied medical attention, and where the bodies of slain Palestinians are used by the army against families as tools of collective punishment.”
“The Israeli Occupying Forces’ extrajudicial killing of Ahmad Erekat as well as countless other Palestinians, illustrates how Israel employs a systematic shoot-to-kill policy to maintain its settler-colonial expansion and apartheid regime of systematic racial oppression and colonization over the Palestinian land and the Palestinian people as a whole. In addition, a prevailing system of impunity prevents Palestinians from effectively challenging these systematic policies and practices and holding the perpetrators of international crimes to account".
About Forensic Architecture
Forensic Architecture is an interdisciplinary research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. We undertake spatial and media analysis for international prosecutors, human rights groups and NGOs. Our research is presented in political and legal forums, truth commissions, courts, and human rights reports, as well as in exhibitions and public events. This is the first investigation by FA’s new ‘Palestine Unit’.