After Shooting Video Goes Viral, Israeli Soldier Faces Murder Investigation

The soldier suspected of pulling the trigger appeared in military court on Friday and is expected to face murder charges. His lawyer says the shooting was an act of self-defense.
March 25, 2016, 3:35pm
Photo via Youtube screen grab

Israeli authorities have opened a murder investigation into the shooting by a soldier of a wounded Palestinian in the West Bank town of Hebron on Thursday.

The incident was captured on video and quickly went viral on Thursday afternoon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repudiated the soldier's actions, and Palestinian officials called the shooting a "war crime."

Lieutenant Colonel Adoram Rigle, with Israel's Military Prosecutor's office, told reporters on Friday that the soldier — whose name has not been released — was "suspected of committing a crime of a most serious nature."

The shooting occurred in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron early on Thursday morning. The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem published a video of the incident that shows the summary execution of a seemingly defenseless and wounded Palestinian man.

In the video, two Palestinians, later identified as Abed al Fatah al-Sharif and Ramzi al-Qasrawi, are lying face-up motionless on the ground as Israeli medical workers attend to a wounded soldier.

Minutes before the film began, the Israeli media is reporting, both Sharif and Qasrawi attacked a group of soldiers with knives, managing to slightly wound one. Qasrawi was shot dead immediately following the attack, but Sharif was only wounded.

In the video, the medical personnel can be seen attending to the injured soldier, while ignoring both Palestinian men. Two minutes into the recording, one soldier beckons another one to his side. He leans in and says something to him, then reaches over to grab his helmet.

A voice can be heard saying in Hebrew: "This dog is still alive." The second soldier then walks forward, raises his rifle to his shoulder, and takes aim at Sharif, who is laying a few meters away. Several men nearby then cover their ears — and the soldier fires a bullet into Sharif's head. Sharif's head and arms jerk, dust from the road kicks up near his head, then blood begins to run down the street.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a new video from a different angle on Friday, that shows the shooting for the perspective of the soldiers and medics on the ground.

In it, a voice can be heard warning that the wounded Palestinian "might be booby-trapped."

"Be careful not to touch him until the sappers arrive," an unidentified voice is heard saying, before the man is shot. Still, the soldiers ignore the wounded man for more than two minutes, and casually walk around him up until the moment he is shot.

The soldier who pulled the trigger is currently in custody. Haaretz reported that he is a medic. His lawyer, who also has not been named, said on Friday that his client shot Sharif because he feared for his life.

Dotan Greenvald served with the IDF in Hebron between 2002-2003 and is one of the founding members of Breaking the Silence — a group of Israeli veterans who are critical of the army's human rights record. While such assassinations are not everyday occurrences, Greenvald noted how "unconcerned" the soldiers in the video appear as their comrade calmly shoots Sharif dead.

When asked if the soldiers in the video could have feared for their life because of a potential booby trap, Greenvald said it was unlikely.

"If there was a bomb threat they would chase all the people from the scene not to mention the vehicles," he explained. "The new video shows that people said the Palestinian might have a bomb. But nobody there took this threat seriously."