'He's a Soldier, the Court Will Act in His Favor': Family of Palestinian Killed by Israeli Slams Plea Deal

Soldier who 'mistakenly' shot and killed Ahmad Manasra will be convicted of negligent homicide and serve a three-month sentence of community service

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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Jamal  Manasra and a poster with a picture of his son Ahmad, in Jaffa, August 17, 2020
Jamal Manasra and a poster with a picture of his son Ahmad, in Jaffa, August 17, 2020Credit: Ilan Assayag
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

The family of Ahmad Manasra, who was shot and killed by an IDF soldier in the West Bank last year, informed the military court on Monday that it opposes the plea bargain agreement reached with prosecutors.

In the plea bargain deal, the soldier will be convicted of negligent homicide and will be given a three-month prison sentence that he will serve as community service, as well as a suspended sentence and being demoted to the rank of private. The plea agreement is subject to the approval of the military court.

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Attorney Shlomo Lecker, who is representing the families of Manasra and Raayda, who was shot and seriously wounded by the soldier in the same incident, said “Even if it was negligence – and this position of the prosecution is not acceptable to us – the levels of punishment are different and higher.”

Lecker said that the approval of such a plea bargain “Seriously damages the value of human life and the value of justice. We are certain that when the pictures from the scene are exposed… it will be made clear how wrong the indictment is. We are waiting for these pictures, we and the court have not been allowed the possibility of seeing the cameras. Everything was documented.”

The defendant (right) in court, August 17, 2020Credit: Ilan Assayag

In response to the plea bargain, Manasra’s father, Jamal, told Haaretz: “In our religion it says you have to help everyone. Look what happened to my son when he tried to help – they shot him dead. It doesn’t matter how much I talked to Israeli television and newspapers, nothing helped.” Jamal said he doesn't believe the soldier regrets his actions, "In the end, he's a soldier, the court will act in his favor," Manasra said. "This past year and a half have been so hard, this was a boy that I trusted with everything," he said. "It's very hard, with one blow he was gone. His mother still doesn't believe he's gone."

The military prosecutor, Maj. Matan Furst, said Lecker’s claim was not true and lacks any evidence.

Furst said in a hearing on Monday that the prosecution chose to reach a plea bargain deal because of a number of evidentiary and legal circumstance. The soldier was told of a concrete warning about a terrorist attack, this was the first incident he was in charge of without his commanders and the briefing he received was only partial and missing information, said Furst.

The soldier’s defense attorney,  Shlomi Tzipori, said that “Nobody is happy about the tragic result and the first person who is not happy about it is the defendant. He stated this throughout his interrogations and even today.” Tzipori added that, from the soldier’s point of view it was an operational incident and therefore, “It is impossible not to be convinced that there are objective circumstances here that show that his point of view is not only honest - but also reasonable. “

A demonstration against the soldier's plea agreement, Jaffa, August 17, 2020Credit: Ilan Assayag

At the end of the hearing, the soldier stated: “It is important for me to say that what I did that night a year and a half ago was out of a sense that I was thwarting an attack on Israeli citizens and acting as expected of me as a soldier. That week was the first time I was at the guard-post, without the commander and after a stormy night. [It was] a week full of severe attacks and the night before a Molotov cocktail was thrown at my post. I feel sorry for all the uninvolved people who were injured.” He added that it was difficult for him to no longer be able to serve in the reserve army.

According to the July indictment, in March of 2019 Alaa Raayda, the 38-year-old Palestinian who was shot in the stomach and seriously wounded, was driving his car together with his wife and two daughters when another car crashed into them at a junction near the village of El-Hadar in the southern West Bank. The other car fled the scene, and Raayda left his vehicle and waved his hands at the other car. The indictment states that the solider thought that Raayda was throwing stones at Israeli vehicles and proceeded to shout warnings and fire into the air before shooting at him.

Manasra came to Raayda’s aid, with three friends who had been on their way home with him after a wedding in Bethlehem, the indictment states. The three helped take the wounded man to the hospital, while Manasra remained at the scene with Raayda’s wife and daughters to help them start their car. According to the indictment, Manasra was shot when he exited the car, and then shot again when he tried to flee the scene.

The mourning tent set up for Ahmad Manasra, Wadi Fukin in the West Bank, 2019.Credit: Alex Levac

The indictment also states that the soldier started shooting when he “mistakenly thought” that Manasra “was the stone-thrower he has seen earlier … although in fact the man who was killed had not thrown stones.”

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that after the incident, the soldier was suspended for two months from operational activities, and for six months from “operational activities that include “friction with the population.” He has since been discharged from the IDF.

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