After alleged killing, Ya'alon says IDF must 'check' itself
Following claims that Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed an unarmed and wounded Palestinian suspect in the West Bank last week, IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon called late Monday for the army to carefully examine its methods of passing orders to troops in the field.
The IDF is investigating charges that soldiers who killed a wanted Islamic Jihad man in the West Bank over the weekend shot him to death while he was lying on the ground, wounded and unarmed.
"In some places there seems to be a dulling of the senses, stemming from ongoing service in the territories and combat," Ya'alon told Haaretz.
"It is up to us to check ourselves, to closely examine whether orders to soldiers are lucid and clear, and not too fuzzy, and whether we are sending mixed messages to combat units," he added.
The soldiers in the "Shayetet 13" naval commando unit involved in the incident have been suspended from active duty in the territories pending the conclusion of the investigation.
Military sources said an initial investigation has determined the troops made several mistakes, but that there was no "execution," as the B'Tselem human rights group described the shooting in a report released Monday.
The initial IDF findings, which came about as the result of an internal military report, prompted GOC Central Command Moshe Kaplinski to appoint an external investigation committee Monday to further examine the incident.
Mahmud Abd a-Rahman Hamdan Kamil was killed by IDF troops in the village of Raba, south of Jenin, before dawn Friday. Security forces said Kamil had been involved in suicide bombings and shooting attacks, Israel Radio reported at the time of the incident.
At least part of the shooting was filmed by a drone, and the footage is expected to help the IDF with its investigation.
The IDF said at the time of the shooting that troops surrounded the house where Kamil, 27, was staying, and instructed everyone inside to come out. The army said Kamil was armed with a pistol and that troops shot him when he tried to escape.
But B'Tselem said there is "serious suspicion" that Kamil was unarmed and wounded when he was shot to death.
According to the testimony of two Palestinian witnesses that was collected by B'Tselem, when Kamil was killed, his weapon had already been taken away from him and he was lying wounded on the ground after having been hit by an initial round of shots. The witnesses - Tayil Muhammad al-Bazur, 45, in whose house Kamil was staying, and Suleiman Qasrawi, a neighbor - also said soldiers threatened them at gunpoint and forced them to carry Kamil and search his body.
Al-Bazur said Kamil tried to escape from the house before soldiers shot him. After the troops told al-Bazur to "drag" Kamil over to them, Qasrawi came to the scene and found a pistol in Kamil's pocket, al-Bazur said. Qasrawi handed over the pistol to the soldiers.
Al-Bazur said he spoke to Kamil while the Jihad suspect was lying on the ground, and that Kamil was conscious and asking for medical help at the time.
"Mahmud had been wounded lightly in the neck, and was not bleeding much," al-Bazur said about Kamil's condition after the first round of shots. "The blood came from the back of his head, and he spoke in a normal way to Suleiman and me."
A few minutes later, the soldiers shot Kamil a second time, al-Bazur said.
"The soldiers told Suleiman to leave, and Suleiman did," said al-Bazur. "I walked away with the soldiers' guns aimed at me. I walked about 20-30 meters and then heard four or five shots. When I looked, I saw Mahmud's body jump up a bit... I went over to Mahmud and saw that he was dead. He had been hit in the head, and blood was splattered on the ground."
The IDF investigation will focus on whether the troops shot Kamil to death after he had already been wounded and on whether the soldiers sent the two Palestinian residents to examine Kamil after he had been wounded, in violation of military directives and a High Court of Justice ruling. Sending the Palestinians to check on Kamil would fall under the "neighbor practice," also known as the use of human shields, which the High Court banned a year and a half ago because it potentially endangers innocent bystanders.
The army's initial investigation indicates that Kamil may have been killed in the first round of shots, despite the testimony to the contrary, and that troops shot again because IDF lookouts noticed what they thought was a suspicious movement.
The incident comes a short time after an IDF company commander was heard on tape admitting to having "confirmed the kill" of a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in the Gaza Strip. The commander was indicted last month on five counts in connection with the October shooting of Iman Alhamas.