An eyewitness to the deaths of two Palestinian teens in the village of Beitunia after Nakba Day protests last week has recounted to Haaretz what he says were Israeli soldiers shooting live fire at unthreatening teens.
Israeli military investigators said, however, the shots may have been fired by the Palestinian side, rather than by Israeli troops, and senior Israeli officials said a video of the shootings that has that sparked an outcry was likely forged.
In another development, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has instructed Military Advocate General Danny Efroni to update him on the progress of the investigation into the shootings. It was a rare intervention by the AG, who does not normally get involved in West Bank investigations.
Fahar Zaid, a property owner whose security cameras caught footage of the event, told Haaretz that he was standing on the balcony of his house during the clashes between IDF soldiers and Palestinian protesters on Thursday.
"Most of the people there were school children who had finished their studies and were going toward the Ofer prison," he said. "I saw [a group of] Israeli soldiers standing by a nearby building, the teenagers were outside of their field of vision. Another squad was standing at a distance of some 250-300 meters from the youths who were throwing stones. [The soldiers were] firing smoke grenades and rubber bullets at them. Despite that, there did not seem to be a full-on, frontal collision between the two groups."
According to Ziad, Muhammad Abu Thahr, 15, and Nadim Nuwara, 17, suddenly fell to the ground after several minutes of shooting by Israeli soldiers. "For several minutes, live bullets were shot individually I heard at least four shots, three of which hit the youths including the two seen in the videos."
Asked if he saw anyone in the area carrying weapons besides Israeli soldiers, Ziad said no. "Israel can say what it wants, but I am the one who stood here and saw what happened."
The security cameras, which captured the teens falling to the ground after having been shot, have been affixed to his warehouse for the past six years, Zaid said. "It's all documented around the clock, and saved for 15 days I presented all the material I have to the human rights organizations, and to the Palestinian intelligence services."
Ziad said he had not received any request for the material by any Israeli officials.
Ziad's version of events appears to be backed up by footage captured by his security cameras, but a military official cast doubt on the video, saying it showed "a high likeliness of forgery."
"Since I have a lot of experience with forgery, I won't say anything unequivocal until we conclude the investigation," the senior official said. "We have asked to be given the additional bullets that were found, and we are willing to receive them now to conclude the inquiry. Since the video appeared, we will try to corroborate it against the battalion commander who was there."
Watch: Muhammad Abu Thahr's fall, documented by both cameras:
Adding to the video and to the testimony by Palestinians, a medical report by Dr. Salim Saliba, the head of Ramallah Hospital's trauma department, says both boys were killed by live bullets that entered through their chests.
The third boy, Muhammad al-Aza, was hit by two bullets, one to the chest and one to his left lung. He is hospitalized in Ramallah.
Watch: Nadim Nuwara's fall documented by both cameras :
IDF report due Thursday
The Israel Defense Forces has nearly completed its investigation into the deaths, with a report expected Thursday. The Israel Defense Forces Central Command will first present its findings to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and afterward to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
IDF investigators have been trying to establish how footage of the event matches with the soldiers' testimonies.
Border Patrol troops maintain that no live bullets were used to disperse the violent protests. According to what turned up in the military investigation, only crowd dispersing ammunition including rubber bullets was used by Israeli troops.
Israeli military investigators are examining the possibility that the bullets which killed the boys were fired from the Palestinian side, rather than the IDF's side. Suspicions that soldiers involved in the event were lying when they said no live bullets were fired were examined, and discarded, investigators have said.
The possibility that the bullets were fired from the Palestinian side is based, upon other things, on the angle of the fall of one of the boys.
Additional footage that surfaced on Wednesday shows another angle to the one previously seen in Ziad's video. In it, too, it is evident that Abu Thahr and Nuwara were hit from a great distance, while not engaged in any kind of confrontation with Israeli troops.
Both videos show the boys falling after being hit, each one individually. One of the boys was hit when his back was facing the Israeli troops. The boys are not seen holding firebombs, an act that would permit an opening of fire under the IDF's rules of engagement.
'Anything to get to the truth'
Nadim's father Siam Nuwara told Haaretz that he is willing to have his son's body exhumed for further tests. "I am prepared to do anything to get to the truth," he said. Nadim's bag, said his father, was transferred to the family, and in it, he found the single bullet that passed through Nadim's body. "Everybody I spoke to explained that this is an IDF bullet, and so there is no place for denials and evasions," he said.
Nuwara blames Israel for attempting to shake off responsibility for the events, and said it would not be able to uphold such a stance for long. "It will only get them into a bigger mess," he said.
"I turn to the Israeli public and ask them not to aid in the whitewashing. A military investigation must be insisted upon, and also an objective international investigation."
Lieberman brushes off international calls
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected international demands for an investigation into the deaths.
Lieberman said the deadly incident will be thoroughly investigated regardless of any demands by foreign government. His remarks, made to reporters during a tour of the West Bank settlement of Ariel, came a day after both a top UN official and the U.S. State Department urged for an inquiry.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now