Political Storm Gathers Strength after Video Shows Soldier Killing Wounded Palestinian in Hebron

The political storm over a B’Tselem video showing an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian in the head is gathering apace. The soldier who opened fire on a Palestinian attacker has been arrested by the Military Police’s criminal investigations department, IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Moti Almoz said on Thursday afternoon, March 24.

Footage from the B'Tselem video documenting the extrajudicial execution in Hebron, March 24, 2016

Footage from the B’Tselem video documenting the extrajudicial execution in Hebron, March 24, 2016

“Israel over the last several months has become a place where public executions take place to the cheers of the crowd,” claimed Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) after the video went public. “The State of Israel is trying to keep its reputation as a country which abides by the rule of law, but the truth is its ministers repeatedly call on the public to execute anyone suspicious,” Odeh said.

Warning of the consequences of incidents such as Thursday’s, he said “the price of the deterioration in ethics is paid by both Israelis and Palestinians.” Odeh called for those who have killed suspects to be indicted “along with those who sent them from Balfour 10” (the residence of the prime minister in Jerusalem).

Joint List MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said “the pictures from Hebron should shock anyone with a conscience. The people who are responsible first and foremost are our leaders who have directly and indirectly expressed support for the killing of the perpetrators, alleged or otherwise, of acts of terror, even if they no longer pose a threat.” Khenin warned: “It is vital to understand that we will continue to fall to lower depths if we do not change course immediately,” Khenin also blamed Israeli leaders whose statements he said “expressed support for the killing of suspects.”

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, accused Israel of committing “a war crime,” Health Minister Jawad Awwad claiming that both Palestinian assailants in the Hebron attack had been “executed” by Israeli soldiers. The soldier, he said, “opened fire directly aimed at the head of the young Palestinian Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, who was lying wounded on the ground. While [the camera] did not see how the second man died, Ramzi Qasrawi Tamimi, who was 21-years-old, was likely executed in the same way,” he said. Awwad maintained that the video was “irrefutable evidence that Israeli soldiers commit field executions.”

Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International, said that Thursday’s incident mirrored a number known to have taken place previously. “Israeli forces have a long history of carrying out unlawful killings – including extrajudicial executions – in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with impunity,” he said. “While it is encouraging that the soldier in the video has reportedly been suspended and placed under investigation, previous Israeli investigations have failed to hold members of the Israeli forces accountable even when there has been clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing.” He encouraged the Israeli authorities to “use this opportunity to end the culture of impunity that has made such killings increasingly commonplace.”

B’Tselem – which has recently come under attack by Israel’s political right – has accused Israeli soldiers and police officers of becoming “judge, jury and executioner” over the past few months of violence, blaming official encouragement and effective impunity.

The UN’s human rights monitor in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Makarim Wibisono, has also slammed what he termed Israel’s extrajudicial executions, most recently during an address to the UN Rights Council on Monday. Wibisono also said that while wanton acts of individual violence – committed by both Palestinians and Israelis – were unacceptable, the recent surge in violence was “arising in a pre-existing context.” The UN human rights monitor said” “Tensions have risen on the backdrop of illegal settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza, and a general lack of accountability.”

Palestinians have in the past voiced strong distrust of Israeli probes into violations carried out in the occupied territories, and Amnesty International last summer said Israel’s system of military investigation failed to meet the standard criteria for effective investigations.

B’Tselem video: extrajudicial execution in Hebron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8WK2TgruMo