The Defense Ministry is blaming an army dog for the death of an innocent Palestinian, who was shot by Israel Defense Forces troops 10 months ago.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim (Likud), the dog had mistaken the Palestinian's identity.

Boim wrote this in response to a parliamentary question submitted by MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) about the circumstances of the death of a Jenin University lecturer last year. Bishara presented the question in May 2004 and received the answer at the end of February 2005.

Haaretz learned from security sources that the inquest in the case was based on testimony from the soldiers only, and that no attempt had been made to question the widow of the deceased, who was near him when he was shot.

As a rule, the IDF does not question Palestinians while investigating cases in which civilians are killed by Israeli fire, the sources said.

Boim's answer is based on the IDF's investigation, which was reportedly carried out on April 28, 2004. On that same day, Haaretz published an article contrasting the IDF's version with the widow's testimony. The only dog she saw was with the soldiers, when they emerged from behind a large tree after shooting her husband, she said.

Yasser Abu-Laymoun, a lecturer on hospital management at the American-Arab university in Jenin, was shot and killed on Friday, April 23, 2004, in an open field outside his village Taluza, near Nablus. His wife and sister were nearby.

That day, "an IDF force was involved in an operation near Taluza village. During the operation, the force confronted two armed terrorists and fired toward them. One of the terrorists was killed, while the other fled ... the force sent an attack dog after the fleeing terrorist and advised another force in the area of its moves. The second force, noticing a man being chased by a dog, assumed it was the terrorist and shot him. In retrospect, it transpired that the dog was chasing the civilian, who happened to be there."

Dalal Abu-Laymoun testified, as Haaretz reported on April 28, that she, her husband Yasser and his sister were heading for their plot as they did every Friday morning at about 10:30 A.M.

About 150 meters from their home, Yasser turned toward a second plot, to bring food to another sister there. Dalal and her sister-in-law continued toward the first plot. Seconds later they heard shooting from the direction of a large tree to the west. Dalal and her sister-in-law, who were about 10 meters away from Yasser, fell to the ground. "We heard Yasser cry out. I thought he was wounded, called out his name, but he did not answer," the widow said.

The firing continued above their heads for about three minutes. Then the soldiers emerged from behind the tree, with the dog. They aimed their guns at the women and prevented them from approaching Yasser. Later Dalal found that the soldiers, who hovered for a while over Yasser, had been going through his pockets. His university staff card and health insurance card were gone. His identity card had been moved from his back pocket to a side pocket.

The couple has a 20-month-old daughter. Their second son was born five months after Yasser was killed.

On April 26, military sources reported that the soldiers saw the dog attack someone and they shot him, assuming it was the wanted man. The IDF reported that one of the wanted men was arrested the following day, while the second was killed in a chase a few days later.

Dalal Abu-Laymoun said on Sunday that she was not far from her husband when he was shot. If a dog had been chasing him, or if he had been running for some reason, she would have noticed and heard, as she heard him cry out when he was shot.

The widow was not questioned because "we don't question Palestinians in our inquiries," an IDF source said. "However, Palestinians file complaints after almost every incident and these are used as facts in the investigation."

Abu-Laymoun said yesterday that she had not filed a complaint.

The security source said the mistake was made "because the force identified a fleeing man in the field."