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With eyes on Syria, Israel closed the case on a protestor’s death

Buried under the headlines dominated by the political thriller unfolding between the U.S. and Russia last week was the Israeli military's decision to close its investigation into the 2009 killing of Bassem Abu Rahme in Bil’in, which was caught on camera and featured in the Oscar-nominated film Five Broken Cameras.

Bassem Abu Rahme, 30, was killed by a high velocity tear gas canister shot directly at his chest by Israeli forces during the weekly protest against the separation barrier, taking place in the small West Bank village every Friday since 2005. Although many Israelis have by now heard of and/or seen Five Broken Cameras, few likely have any clue about the posthumous legal battle waged by the Abu Rahme family, with the help of two Israeli human rights organization, to hold those responsible for his death accountable.

Abu Rahme’s case was begrudgingly opened by the military over a year after the shooting, on July 11, 2010, only due to an appeal by Yesh Din attorneys and B’Tselem, who presented footage from three different cameras analyzed by forensic imaging experts who confirm the tear gas canister was fired directly at Abu Rahme, in violation of the Israel Defense Forces’ open-fire regulations. However the IDF insists it is impossible to identify the shooter or to prove protocol was violated, despite not contesting the fact that an unarmed civilian posing no security threat was shot to death by Israeli forces.

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