IDF Officer Sentenced Over Shooting of Palestinian Gets State Immunity for Civil Damages

IDF agrees to pay if suit against officer who commandeered a taxi in the West Bank, tied up the driver and then heedlessly shot a Palestinian, succeeds.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

A former IDF officer whose soldiers commandeered a taxi in the West Bank, tied up the driver and then heedlessly shot a Palestinian passerby will not have to pay from his own pocket in any civil suit, the State Prosecutor’s Office has announced.

Yaakov Gigi served a 15-month prison term after a unit under his command seized a taxi in Dahariya, bound the driver and shot a Palestinian passerby without authorization and without reporting to its superiors. In the past the state refused to defend him in a civil suit, leaving him to pay out of his own pocket if the wounded Palestinian were to win a civil suit against him. Now the state has changed its position and will indemnify Gigi.

The incident took place in July 2007. Gigi, at the time a first lieutenant in the Kfir Brigade, received an order to patrol the outskirts of Dahariya. Gigi took the order a step further, and without permission from his commanders decided to undertake an undercover operation. He collected five of his soldiers and went out to a busy road in the city, where they ordered a taxi driver to halt. They tied and blindfolded the driver and put him inside the cab. Gigi then began to drive through town.

At a certain point they approached a brick factory and encountered Badham Samamra, a resident of Dahariya who worked at the plant. Gigi ordered the soldier next to him to chase Samamra away from the area. Samamra then made a gesture the soldier interpreted as threatening, prompting the latter to open fire. The bullet hit Samamra’s left shoulder and wounded him. Eventually the troops abandoned the taxi, with the driver still bound inside.

Gigi later ordered his soldiers to lie during questioning and not to disclose what really happened. During the investigation the officer gave a false account, claiming that one of his soldiers was wounded and that they had to take the taxi in order to rescue him.

In 2009 Samamra filed a suit with the Kiryat Gat Magistrate’s Court, demanding compensation for the damage caused him. Haaretz has learned that there were three reasons for the change in the decision about Gigi’s immunity. First was his poor financial situation. Secondly, he was the one to fire the gun. Lastly, even if commandeering the taxi was wrong, the shooting of the Palestinian is not considered a “private action” that would deem him ineligible for immunity considering that the unit felt it was in danger.

“After the state examined the details of the incident it became clear that the officer was not put on trial for wounding the plaintiff, but due to a number of offenses committed at the time of the injury,” the Tel Aviv Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

IDF soldiers checking a Palestinian taxi driver in the West Bank.Credit: Reuters

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