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Soldier’s shooting of Palestinian sets off uproar in Israel

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Israeli soldiers stand near the body of a Palestinian who was shot and killed by a soldier while laying wounded on the ground after a stabbing attack in Hebron, West Bank. (AP Photo, File)

JERUSALEM — Amateur video appearing to show an Israeli soldier killing an already wounded Palestinian attacker sparked uproar in Israel on Sunday, reflecting the deep divisions in the country following six months of violence.

As the Israeli military pressed on with an investigation, nationalistic politicians accused the army of abandoning the soldier, while political doves bemoaned the erosion of the nation’s morals. Palestinians, meanwhile, said the shooting proved their claims that Israel is guilty of using excessive force and carrying out extrajudicial killings.

The shooting took place last Thursday in Hebron, the volatile West Bank city that has been a focal point of the latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The military said two Palestinians stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops shot and killed the pair.

In a video released by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, one of the attackers appears to still be alive after the initial shooting. The video, taken by a Palestinian volunteer for the group, shows the wounded attacker lying on the ground, slowly moving his head. About a minute later, a soldier raises his rifle, cocks the weapon and fires. Blood is then seen streaming from the Palestinian’s head.

The Israeli military quickly arrested the soldier and opened an investigation into what it said appeared to be a “grave breach” of its values. A military court has ordered the soldier to remain held until Tuesday while the investigation continues.

Military officials also have cast doubt on the soldier’s claim that he believed the Palestinian was carrying explosives.

On Sunday night, B’Tselem released a second video it says shows the same soldier at the scene shaking hands with Baruch Marzel, a well-known ultranationalist, after the shooting.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said a preliminary investigation found the soldier arrived on the scene some six minutes after the initial incident, and that the second shooting occurred several minutes after that. “There was no apparent threat from the Palestinian that was incapacitated,” Lerner said.

He said that commanders had already reported the shooting to their superiors before the video emerged. “There was already a military police investigation. We already knew the behavior was not in line with the code of conduct and ethics,” he said.

The Israeli media, citing military officials, quoted the soldier as saying the Palestinian “deserved to die.”

Lerner said three officers at the scene were reprimanded for not giving medical attention to the wounded Palestinian, as is required under military policy.

The sister of the soldier, who was not identified, accused the military of publicly convicting her brother, and several nationalistic lawmakers came to his defense, accusing detractors of abandoning him before he was given a fair hearing.

“Have we lost our minds? We’re at war. War against vicious terrorism,” said Naftali Bennett, leader of the hardline Jewish Home party. He said the shooting should be investigated, but criticized politicians and the media for rushing to condemn the soldier.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the right-wing opposition party Yisrael Beitenu, asked to meet the soldier in prison and accused the prime minister of looking for the support of the “bleeding hearts.”

Over the weekend, hundreds of people protested in support of the soldier outside the prison, and posters surfaced denouncing his critics, including the military chief and defense minister.

In a Facebook post, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon accused unnamed politicians of “a campaign of incitement” against the military leadership. “The sane elements in Israel, on the right and the left, must unite against this evil wind and stop it,” he said.

Sima Kadmon, a commentator for the Yediot Ahronot daily, criticized the social media posts defending the soldier, and also lashed out at the apparent apathy shown by soldiers in the video after the Palestinian was shot.

But she said “the most troubling thing is the politicians who rushed to the defense of the shooter, even though top military officials, who are far more familiar with the circumstances of the incident and the findings of the inquiry, have called this for what it is: murder.”

Addressing his Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the shooting was not reflective of the military’s conduct and rejected criticism of the armed forces’ morals as “outrageous and unacceptable.” But he also defended the military against its right-wing critics. “We must all support the IDF chief of staff, the IDF and our soldiers, who safeguard our security,” he said.

The shooting came amid a six-month wave of Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks that has killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. Over the same time, at least 188 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire. Israel says most were attackers, and the rest died in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Israel blames the attacks on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media. Palestinians say the violence stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli military occupation.

The Palestinians have also accused Israel of using excessive force and killing assailants who have already been stopped or wounded. A handful of amateur videos supporting the Palestinian claims have emerged in recent months, but Thursday’s killing of Palestinian Abdel-Fattah al-Sharif was perhaps the clearest so far.

“The way al-Sharif was killed is very common, but this time we had the camera to film the extra-judicial killing,” said Jamal Zakout, director of Al-Ard, a Palestinian think tank in the West Bank town of Ramallah. He said the Palestinians could use the killing as a “good example” in their appeal for “international protection” from Israel.

Ben Caspit, a liberal commentator with the Maariv daily, said Israel must protect its “moral backbone.”

“The Israeli army is not an army that carries out extrajudicial executions,” he said. “It must not be such an army. On that day, we will know what we have lost. Unfortunately, we are not far off from that loss.”

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  • SteveJason

    As Martha would say, dead Fakestinian? It’s a good thing.

  • Israel_Reconquista

    Why does every Western media outlet have this false headline “IDF soldier shoots injured Palestinian”, The IDF soldier shot an injured Palestinian terrorist who had just slashed another soldier in the throat minutes earlier. The lie of omission is obvious, and exposes the vile anti-Israel bias in favor of Palestinian terrorism.

  • pbo

    Actually your comment makes it clear that you didn’t read the entire artical or comprehend what it said. What is obvious is your affliction for attaching the word ‘terrorism’ to the knife wielding Palestinian while labeling the fully armed Israeli who shot him to death a ‘soldier’. With this mentality it’s not surprising that what is overlooked is Palestinians out number Israeli deaths in these conflicts 10 to 1. With the Gaza blockaded land, sea, and air for years by the Israeli government, is it any wonder the people living under such extreme oppression want to fight back? It is the IDF that is doing the terrorizing and preventing a peaceful resolution to this decades old problem.

  • pbo

    SteveJason you are an idiot. God help the people forced to be around you.

  • Israel_Reconquista

    Cut the crap, no one is buying it. This terrorist mass-murderer which you support, had attacked a 19 year old patrolmen minutes earlier, slashing his throat and chest, nearly killing him. Just like his terrorist mass murderer comrades had done countless times over the last 6 months, murdering 34 innocent people including American Vanderbilt Student Taylor Force, and other victims which include mothers, and fathers stabbed and gunned down ruthlessly in front of their children. These are not soldiers, they are mass-murdering vermin, and you support their actions. You are the lowest form of human life.

  • pbo

    Typical slanderous and desperate over-response from someone who’s regime has been killing women and children by the 10’s of thousands with their bombs and ‘soldiers’ across 4 countries for decades. Look no further than neighboring Lebanon where Beirut has almost been flattened several times over for the crime of accepting the millions of refugees your state created. As far as this situation is concerned, even groups within Israel have denounced what happened and the gunman is being held in jail. The rest of the world outside the walls you’re apparently living in is no longer accepting the propaganda that anyone fighting against the Israeli army is a terrorist. Robotically supporting the Israeli government and all it’s actions regardless of how many lifes are lost on both sides is demented. Maybe if you spent less time calling others vermin who don’t support your view and more time looking at the actual facts of this ongoing conflict you would learn that the real terrorist here is your own government.

  • Israel_Reconquista

    Ignorant troll. Israel hasn’t come close to killing “tens of thousands” defending her homeland. Unlike good ol’ USA who kills HUNDREDS of thousands defending her imperial projects in the Middle East. You support mass murderers, instead of the people defending innocents. You are a sick human being who needs psychiatric help. Palestinian mass murderers in the last 6 month have gunned down a father and son in front of their family, gunned down a teenager waiting at a red light, slaughtered (literally) an American student, knifed a mother of 6 to death in front of her screaming children, and rammed cars into pedestrians at a bus stop, then came out and slit the victims throats. (30 other incidents besides these 4). We have been FAR too nice to these human animals, and the vermin who support them.

  • SteveJason

    Nope. I can actually think. And, unlike you, I hate that which is hateful. You love the cruel and evil.

  • pbo

    As long as I participate in this discussion that has you so flustered you’ve resorted to adolescent name calling, i have little doubt that you’ll continue to vomit up a bottomless pit of misinformation and ignorance about this conflict. i cannot reason with a brainwashed mind which is clearly devoid of the ability to have a debate based on anything beyond a week’s worth of headlines obtained from some bias rag. When you grow up maybe you will learn something called cause and effect. Without having a grasp on this fundamental theory this back and forth is a complete waste of my time. Call me all the silly names you want, it doesn’t change the facts that the government you are blindly supporting kills innocent people at a rate of 10 to 1. TEN TO ONE. …and have so since 1949. You can very simply look it up if you have any interest in reality. Those numbers are generally undisputed and were tabulated by an Israeli organization who continues to actively monitor and chart the conflict in depth.

    10 to 1.

    Cause and effect.

  • pbo

    you have no idea what i love. and if you hate the hateful as you say, then I guess you hate yourself. good luck with that. it’s a good thing.

  • Israel_Reconquista

    Your pathetic rant is nothing more than mental gymnastics to hide the fact that you, and people like you, support mass-murderers who target mothers and babies for bloody slaughter. You are welcome to deny it outright.

    10 to 1 is a statistic provided by terrorist organizations, in other words its crock of bull$hit. In case you haven’t noticed, the mass-murderers don’t wear uniforms so there is no possible way to come up with a number like that. They embed among civilians in order to maximize causalities, and garner support from useful idiots like you.

    Cause & effect: They conquered our homeland by force, we conquered it back by force.

  • Israel_Reconquista

    If he loves Palestine, he is surely a lover of cruelty and evil.

  • pbo

    I’m done. As i said before you deny the things your very own people testify to, ignore and rebut statistics the rest of the world including the Israeli government go by, all the while calling anyone who questions your blind devotion to such a horrific cause, idiots. Wow. Yeah i’m defiantly done with you. …Have fun.

  • Israel_Reconquista

    My issue is with people who support hate-crime murders of Jewish-Israelis. You still haven’t denied you support it.