Adalah appeals prosecutor’s decision to close the investigation against all Jewish Israeli suspects in the killing of Mussa Hassouna in Lod during the May 2021 violent events

Adalah: The police conducted a negligent, flawed investigation with the ultimate aim of closing the case and clearing the suspects. Footage found in the investigation file indicates pressure to close the case by prominent political figures.

On 28 April 2022, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed an appeal on behalf of the family of Mussa Hassouna, a 31 year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, who was shot dead during the May 2021 events by a Jewish-Israeli citizen in Lod (Lydd) on the night between 10 and 11 May 2021. Adalah filed the appeal to State Attorney Amit Isman, after the District Attorney for the Central Region decided in October 2021 to close the investigation against all five Jewish-Israeli suspects in the killing. 


CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s appeal [Hebrew]


CLICK HERE to read more about the closure of the case


Extreme violence in Lydd and other mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel broke out in May 2021. The backdrop of these events included Israel’s efforts to evict Palestinian refugees from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem; the storming and blockading of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex by the police and their attacks on worshippers; and hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, in response to which Israel launched massive airstrikes that killed 240 people, of which at least 151 were civilians, including 65 children. Palestinian citizens of Israel took to the streets across the country to demonstrate against these actions, and were met by extreme violence by police and ultra-right wing Jewish vigilante groups. 


On 13 May 2021, less than three days after the shooting, in which Hassouna was instantly killed and two other Palestinian citizens of Israel were injured, the police released all the suspects before a ballistic analysis was produced. On 21 October 2021, the District Attorney’s office closed the cases against all five suspects. The decision on the closure of the cases was the first time the District Attorney provided any information to Hassouna’s family, despite their repeated requests.


In the appeal, Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi argued that the investigatory material indicates that the Israeli police conducted a negligent, flawed investigation with the ultimate aim of clearing the suspects of any charge. Video footage and other materials found in the investigation files by Adalah also suggests that prominent political leaders unlawfully pressured the police throughout the investigation.


According to the investigative materials, there were six shooters, some of whom arrived for a protest organized by the ‘Garin Torani’ – a cell of the settler movement that seeks to further Judaize Israel’s “mixed cities”. Others arrived after messages were sent in the neighborhood’s WhatsApp groups for all residents with weapons to come down to the street. They shot approximately 40 bullets within 15-20 minutes.


In its appeal, Adalah argued that the investigatory material raises serious suspicions that the police investigators were under political pressure, which altered the course of the investigation and its results. In a filmed conversation between investigators accidentally recorded after an interrogation ended, dated 12 May 2021, one of the investigators complains that the head of a weapons lab refused to test weapons used by the suspects, and he criticizes the classification of the case as a murder case. In response, another investigator answered, “Oh really? Let him tell that to the Minister who is calling every ten minutes to check on the status of the case.” The then-Minister of Public Security, Amir Ohana, also posted on Twitter on 12 May 2021, (the same day in which the video was taken) a call for the release of the suspects: “The arrest of the shooter and his friends in Lod, who acted in self-defense, is terrible. Law-abiding citizens carrying weapons are a force multiplier for the authorities for the immediate neutralization of threat and danger. The detention/release is not under the purview of the Minister of Public Security; if that were the case, they would have been released. The enforcement system will do well if it does the same.”


Thus, Adalah, in addition to the appeal, also sent a letter on 28 April 2022 to the Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara demanding that a prompt investigation into the interference by political figures in the investigation be initiated.


              CLICK Here to watch the full video [Hebrew]


              CLICK HERE to watch a segment of the video with English subtitles


              CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s letter [Hebrew]


Adalah argued that the self-defense claims relied on by the State Attorney to justify the closure of the cases, must be assessed by judicial rather than law enforcement authorities. Adalah further contended that self-defense claims were not reasonable as the suspects did not face an imminent threat; according to their testimonies, prior to the shooting, they gathered to discuss how they should “operate the incident” until police arrived. Their conduct suggests that the suspects took the law into their own hands and acted as law enforcement until police arrived, which cannot be considered as acting in self-defense.


Adalah further argued that the police failed to undertake essential investigatory steps, resulting in an inadequate investigation. This included the following failures: (i) the suspects were only interrogated once, and they were not required to answer any follow-up questions beyond the initial interrogation, even though substantial facts remained unclear; (ii) the ballistic analysis was incomplete as it failed to detail the analysis as required by law and only notes the (limited) findings: four of the weapons did not match the bullet that killed Hassouna and the fifth weapon could neither be confirmed or ruled out; (iii) video footage taken by witnesses documenting the killing was not properly collected and examined as evidence in the case; (iv) the police did not attempt to determine the distance from which the shooter shot at the deceased; (v) the police did not gather testimonies from any of the Palestinian witnesses; they relied exclusively on statements by Jewish-Israelis to establish the sequence of events.


Therefore, Adalah’s appeal demanded that the State Attorney reopen the investigation against all five suspects and conduct a thorough, adequate investigation.  Additionally, Adalah demanded to investigate and prosecute public figures who were present at the scene of the incident and did not act to prevent the killing, including Lod’s Deputy Mayor and City Manager in the Lod municipality, responsible for “security at times of emergency”. Alternatively, Adalah requested that the suspects be prosecuted based on the evidence collected thus far, which is sufficient for prosecution.


Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi commented:


“During the May 2021 events, Palestinian citizens of Israel, residents of the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod, in the center of the country, joined nationwide protests. They were met with police brutality and with Israeli Jewish vigilante groups, who took it upon themselves to attack Palestinian citizens and their property. The conduct of law enforcement authorities and political leaders, in this case, shows that these vigilante groups had their full support and were even seen as “force multiplier for the authorities”. Clearing the suspects of any charges, without conducting an even remotely-adequate investigation, is the result of an investigation that was intended from the outset to free the shooters of any criminal responsibility. The extensive failures in the investigation presented to the State Attorney are consistent with what Hassouna’s family has argued all along – that political figures have done everything in their power to close the murder case. Israel implements its long-standing policy of sweeping, immunity with regards to its armed forces, and also when Israeli Jewish vigilante groups are concerned. The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI), the first COI empowered to examine human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinian citizens inside the Green Line, ought to examine this phenomenon.”


Additional resources:


Special Report on Adalah’s website: May 2021 events


Human Rights Watch, “Israel: Abusive Policing in Lod during May Hostilities: UN Commission of Inquiry should investigate apparently discriminatory practices,” December 2021



Amnesty International, “Israeli police targeted Palestinians with discriminatory arrests, torture and unlawful force,” 24 June 2021



Arab leadership inside Israel calls on international community to protect Palestinian citizens of Israel 16/05/2021


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