The Israel Defense Forces soldier who was filmed shooting a bound and blindfolded Palestinian with a rubber bullet at point blank range told military police investigators yesterday that his battalion commander had ordered him three times to fire at the protester.
The incident was caught on camera by a villager and released Sunday by the human rights group B'Tselem. The footage apparently shows a soldier firing his rifle at Ashraf Abu Rahma, who was detained at a protest against the separation fence near the West Bank village of Na'alin on July 7.
The soldier was arrested on Sunday. During his interrogation, the soldier said that his commander, Lt. Col. Omri Bruberg of the 71st armored battalion, had told him "shoot him" three times. He then fired his rifle at the protester's foot from about a meter away. The soldier's attorney asked for his release saying he did not pose a danger to anyone.
During the course of the military investigation, the commander, seen in the video holding Abu Rahma was also questioned.
Military sources said that the commander said he was surprised by the shooting, and that the incident had likely resulted from a misunderstanding between the soldier and the officer.
Bruberg said he took full responsibility for the incident, despite it stemming from a misunderstanding.
Bruberg also claimed he ordered the soldier, who serves on a team which accompanies the battalion commander, to "wave" his rifle at Abu Rahma in an attempt to frighten him; however, the soldier fired.
Abu Rahma was injured very lightly, and given first aid treatment on the scene by IDF medics.
The IDF said the incident would be investigated on the brigade level, but later it was decided that the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Noam Tivon, would conduct a wider investigation.
The embarrassing affair forced Defense Minister Ehud Barak to comment yesterday, saying he condemned the incident.
"The Israeli military will investigate the incident, learn its lessons and hold those responsible accountable," Barak said in televised remarks to legislators in his Labor Party. "Warriors do not behave like this."
The 71st battalion is the same one abducted soldier Gilad Shalit belongs to.