Jamal Manasra’s son, Ahmad, was someone he could always count on. When Jamal needed him, Ahmad was there, always ready to help — it was, and still is something that Jamal prides himself on to this day.
In March 2019, 23-year-old Ahmad Manasra was doing just that, helping someone in need after a car accident, when he was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier at an intersection south of Bethlehem city, near the village of al-Khader in the southern occupied West Bank.
Now, one and a half years after his death, the Israeli soldier responsible for killing Ahmad, who was completely innocent of any crimes or violations when he was shot, has been sentenced by an Israeli court to three months of community service on charges of “negligent homicide.”
Jamal told Mondoweiss that the decision to give the soldier community service, which was reached as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, was like a slap in the face to his family.
“We knew from the very beginning that as Palestinians, it wouldn’t be easy for us to get justice for our son, even if he was innocent,” Jamal said. “That’s not how things work with the Israeli occupation.”
“But even with low expectations, we were devastated when we were informed of the plea deal,” he continued. “How could they have such disregard for Ahmad’s life?”
Killed helping others
Ahmad Manasra was killed at a busy intersection that connects the city of Bethlehem and a number of villages to the south to Route 60, which goes all the way to Hebron.
It was a cold rainy night in March 2019 when Ahmad and a group of his friends went to attend a wedding in Bethlehem. On their way home, they witnessed a car accident in front of them, just a few hundred meters away from a permanent Israeli military tower.
When the victim of the hit and run accident, identified in the indictment as Alaa Raida, got out of his vehicle to wave the car down, an Israeli soldier fired live shots at Raida, injuring him.
Upon seeing this, Ahmad and his friends went to Raida’s aid to evacuate him to the hospital. On their way to the hospital, Raida informed the young men that his wife and young daughters were still in the car, and he was scared for their safety.
While the soldier claimed that he fired in the air before shooting at Raida, who he said he suspected was “throwing stones at Israeli vehicles,” Raida’s account, according to Haaretz, states that no warning shots were fired before he was targeted — a direct violation of the Israeli army’s rules of engagement.
According to testimony from friends and family, Ahmad immediately turned back to help Raida’s wife and children. Ahmad got in Raida’s car, and upon failing to start it, he stepped out of the vehicle, when he was shot by the same soldier who shot Raida minutes before.
As Ahmad attempted to retreat and seek cover from the bullets, the soldier shot him another time.
“This soldier shot my boy six times,” Jamal told Mondoweiss. “And for what? Because he was trying to help that woman and her children.”
‘A perfect example of Israel’s apartheid’
To this day, Jamal says he and his family still can’t wrap their heads around what happened to their son, and the fact that despite clear evidence of wrongdoing on the soldiers’ part, and innocence on Ahmad’s part, the soldier was handed an extremely lenient sentence.
According to Haaretz, military prosecutors justified the plea deal by saying it was a “complex” case, given the fact that the incident occurred after the soldier had received warning of a “terrorist attack” and that it was his first night on post without the presence of one of his commanders.
The soldier’s defense attorney said that “there are objective circumstances here that show that his point of view is not only honest – but also reasonable.”
The prosecutor’s decision to reach a plea deal came despite damning evidence that the soldier had deleted messages about the shooting that he had sent to friends and colleagues after the incident, and testimony from his colleagues saying that he had a strong desire to use his weapon in an operation.
The Manasra family’s lawyer, Shlomo Lecker, describe Ahmad’s killing as an execution, and the family has since expressed their disapproval of the plea deal, and have appealed the decision in Israeli court.
As a result, the Israeli High Court is set to hear the family’s appeal against the soldier’s plea deal in the coming weeks.
“We don’t have much faith in the Israeli legal system, but we have to do as much as we can to try and achieve justice for Ahmad,” Jamal said.
“This case, and there are many others like it, are a perfect example of Israel’s apartheid system,” he continued.
“Imagine if the roles were reversed, and this was a Palestinian who killed or even injured an Israeli,” Jamal said. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation, because the Palestinian would have already been sentenced to life in prison.”