NAKBA DAY KILLINGS
The Killing of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher in a Nakba Day protest outside of Beitunia on May 15th, 2014
Every year on May 15th, acts of memorialization and resistance take place throughout Palestine to commemorate the Nakba catastrophe of 1948, when Palestinian people were violently displaced from the land that subsequently became Israel. On Nakba Day 2014, a protest culminated in clashes with Israeli security forces outside of the Ofer Prison in the town of Beitunia, next to Ramallah. Two teenagers, Nadeem Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher, 16 were shot dead in front of security cameras and TV film crews. The videos showed that the two Palestinian teens were shot while walking unarmed and posing no threat. One video, shot by CNN, captured two different members of the Israeli security forces on site discharging their weapons in the protestor’s direction, and then panning to show Nawara’s body being carried towards an ambulance. Despite this footage, the Israeli security forces denied committing this massacre.
Defence for Children International (DCI) Palestine, acting on behalf of the teenagers’ parents, commissioned Forensic Architecture to investigate all available material in relation to both killings and produce a body of evidence that can be used to hold the perpetrators accountable. The report focused on establishing the definitive account of who shot and killed the two teenagers and whether it was intentional or not. We identified the border policeman who killed Nawara and proved beyond reasonable doubt that his action was intentional.
Nawara was killed by live fire shot through a rubber-coated steel bullet attachment. The analysis demonstrates that the border policeman was aware of the fact he was shooting live rounds and tried to conceal his actions. By conducting cutting-edge audio forensics, we established that the same act of occlusion was used to kill Abu Daher too. While there is not enough material to determine the identity of the border policeman who shot and killed Abu Daher, we believe he was killed by the same border policeman or one of his colleagues operating in a similar manner.
On November 23, 2014, the Israeli military indicted the border policeman they took into custody earlier that month for the manslaughter of Nadeem Nawara. Charges brought against Israel’s security personnel are extremely rare. The fact that there was a charge at all in this case is due to the existence of the videos. Yet despite the fact that there were cameras filming at the time of his death, no responsibility has been admitted in the killing of Abu Daher on that day. Based on our findings we support Siam Nawara’s (Nadeem’s father) claim for the border policeman to be charged with murder, and that Israeli public campaigns to exonerate the killer must be resisted. We also call for charges to be brought for the killing of Abu Daher.
Our investigation was conducted in four stages.
One publicly available video, shot by a local CNN crew, shows Israeli soldiers discharging their weapons twice in the direction of protestors, and a security camera video shows Nawara being mortally wounded. Our analysis identified a key moment captured in both videos to establish a synchronisation point. Videos have a consistent amount of frames every second. To establish who shot Nawara we needed to find the same moment in both videos and to rewind the footage to see which of the soldiers shoots at the moment when Nawara was hit. By synchronising the videos we determined that the Israeli soldier discharged his weapon at the precise moment when Nawara was shot.
A two-dimensional plan of the site was drawn based on geographical data obtained from public sources and survey plans provided by the Bitunia municipality A three-dimensional model was built based on measurements and a detailed photographic survey conducted on site. The locations of the security cameras and the CNN camera were positioned in this three-dimensional space. The locations of each of the Israeli soldiers shown shooting at the protestors and the location of Nawara were identified and positioned within the model. Two soldiers were identified as having discharged their weapon in the CNN video. Using the three-dimensional model, we drew the lines of sight for both soldiers and found that only one had a clear view to Nawara’s position when he was shot. This soldier is the same soldier who was identified in our video synchronisation as shooting at the exact moment Nawara was mortally wounded.
By comparing videos of other soldiers firing M16 rifles, we found that when firing live ammunition the empty cartridge is automatically ejected from the chamber; however, when rubber coated steel bullets are fired the empty cartridge is not automatically ejected. By identifying the immediate discharge of an empty cartridge after an Israeli soldier shoots, we demonstrated that the border policeman fired live ammunition.
For the Audio Forensics, we engaged the services of sound specialist Lawrence Abu Hamdan to undertake a comparison of the different sounds of the gunshots in the video. By analysing the shot’s sonic signature, it was possible to identify the acoustic characteristics of live ammunition being fired through a rubber bullet extension. Firing live ammunition through a rubber bullet extension suppresses the shot’s sound in a comparable, yet distinct way to using a silencer. By comparing the sound signature of Nawara’s shooting to Abu Daher’s, a pattern emerged which showed that both deaths were the result of Israeli security personnel masking the firing of live ammunition through a rubber coated extension.
Forensic Architecture team
- Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
- Nick Axel (Research and Coordination)
- Steffen Kraemer (Video Compositing and Montage)
- Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Audio Forensics)
- Jacob Burns (Research)
Video Analysis of Fatal West Bank Shooting Said to Implicate Israeli Officer | New York Times, 24 Nov 2014
The Nakba Day Denial | Mondoweiss, 10 Mar 2015