Serious shortcomings have been found in Israel Defense Forces soldiers' handling of an incident in which a Palestinian was shot to death by troops in the West Bank village of Kusra on Friday, an army investigation has revealed.
Prior to the shooting on Friday a group of about 15 settlers went down into the dry riverbed near Kusra to pray, although a brigade commander in the area had identified the location as a potential flash point in advance and moved troops to the area. Despite the fact that the commander had the authority to declare the valley next to Kusra where the settlers were headed a closed military zone, he did not do so and allowed the settlers to come close to the edge of the village.
The area around Kusra has been the scene of repeated incidents involving Palestinians and settlers. One recent incident involved an arson attempt at a mosque in Kusra. Following the mosque incident, some of the villagers in Kusra formed a civil guard of sorts. When they spotted settlers descending into the valley on Friday, they recruited hundreds of villagers to come to the scene. When the Palestinians began throwing stones at the settlers, the IDF intervened to try to separate the two groups.
At one point, a force of IDF troops stationed in the village began to withdraw, but due to a misunderstanding, left a small group of soldiers still in the village. The remaining soldiers came under attack with rocks thrown by villagers, and most of them suffered injuries, most of them light. At that point a company commander and three other IDF troops rescued the besieged soldiers, but then they, too, came under a hail of rocks from short range. It was only when the use of tear gas failed to disperse the crowd that an order was made to use live weapon fire.
According to the interim findings of the investigation, a soldier directed two shots at the lower part of the body of the Palestinian who was shot in the incident after he was identified as the leader of the crowd. He was hit around the hips, but the bullet exited from his neck and he died.
The incident occurred just hours before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the UN General Assembly in a bid for Palestinian membership of the international organization. Abbas mentioned the killing in his address in New York.
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