Israeli soldier faces manslaughter charge in Palestinian's shooting

Story highlights

  • The soldier is released to confinement on a military base
  • Video appears to show the soldier shooting a wounded Palestinian man on the ground
  • The man was suspected of stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron

Jerusalem (CNN)An Israeli solder faces a charge of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a wounded Palestinian man suspected in a knife attack in Hebron, the Israeli military said Friday.

Initially, the soldier, whose identity has not been released, could have faced a murder charge after video appeared to show him shooting the Palestinian suspect in the head as he lay on the ground, already subdued. The soldier, who was being held in a military prison, has been released to confinement on a military base, despite the objection of the prosecution.
    In a court hearing Thursday, military prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that the soldier shot the suspect on the ground, according to Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
    In dispute is the motive and the reasoning behind the shooting. Defense attorneys say the soldier felt his life was in danger.
    However, an initial assessment of the shooting found that the Palestinian posed "no apparent threat to the soldiers and medics in the area," according to the IDF. It found that the soldier who shot the man arrived six minutes after the stabbing and that a few more minutes elapsed before the soldier shot the suspect.
    The Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, was one of two men accused of stabbing an Israeli soldier at the scene moments earlier, the IDF said. The second Palestinian suspect, Ramzi Qasrawi Tamimi, 21, was shot and killed at the scene.
    "An Israeli soldier can be seen shooting the injured al-Sharif," said B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization that shot the video. "The incident happens in the plain view of many other soldiers and officers, who do not seem to take any notice. The soldiers and medical teams are seen in the video treating the lightly injured soldier while ignoring the two seriously injured youths."
    Following the attack, the IDF condemned the shooting, calling it a "grave breach of IDF values."
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon echoed those comments, saying "it is forbidden for a person, even when his blood is boiling, to lose his head and self-control. This incident will be dealt with in the most serious way."

    Political debate

    The shooting has sparked a political debate in Israel about whether the soldier's decision to shoot the suspect was justified.
    At first, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly condemned the soldier, saying "What happened ... in Hebron does not represent the values of the IDF. The IDF expects its soldiers to behave level-headedly and in accordance with the rules of engagement."
    But Netanyahu partially walked back his criticism soon afterward. Thursday, Netanyahu spoke with the soldier's father and said, "I heard the things you said, and as the father of a soldier, I understand your distress. I am convinced (the investigation) will be professional and fair with your son."
    Naftali Bennett, Israel's education minister and head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, had criticized Netanyahu for not supporting the soldier.
    "Have we lost our minds? We are at war, a war against brutal terrorism," said Bennett. "Why, for God's sake, did politicians and the media jump to conclusions so quickly?"
    Avigdor Lieberman, head of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party, also came to the soldier's defense, saying, "A soldier that kills a terrorist obviously should not be charged with murder and also does not need to be charged with manslaughter."
    Palestinian Minister of Health Dr. Jawad al-Awad called the shooting a "war crime" and urged the international community to protect Palestinians. "This is very clear evidence that Israeli soldiers are committing field executions documented by cameras against Palestinian civilians," he said last week.
    "The terrible pictures that were shot in Hebron... shocked me, and they need to shock every person that has a conscience and everyone who has not lost their moral judgment in the terrible reality of the past months," said Dov Khenin, an Arab-Israeli politician from the Joint Arab List.
    The company commander at the scene and two junior officers were also reprimanded for not providing medical attention to the Palestinian before the shooting.