The Ofer military court on Wednesday acquitted a Palestinian of murder, opting to instead issue a manslaughter conviction over a 2016 incident that led to the death of an Israeli reserve soldier.
The Palestinian, Mamdouh Amro, was running from a considerable distance toward Eliav Gelman with a knife, prompting Israeli forces in the area to open fire. The soldiers missed their target and shot and killed Gelman by mistake.
In a two-to-one decision, a panel of military judges ruled that it cannot be proven that Amro intended to cause the death of the soldier at the scene. Gelman was waiting for a ride at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank when he was shot.
Military court Judge Lidor Drachman ruled that in light of Amro's statements that he had come to the site with the aim of being killed himself by Israeli soldiers' weapons fire, it cannot be proven that he intended to murder Gelman.
"The combination of several [pieces of] evidence casts reasonable doubt regarding the intent to kill as the only possible conclusion," Drachman wrote. "It is apparent from the outset that the accused has provided a version of events demonstrating that it was not his intention to make use of the knife or to cause anyone else's death."
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The evidence does not show that Amro tried to attack soldiers or civilians at the scene, Drachman added. "The fact that the accused chose to pull out a knife at a relatively large distance, wave it over his head, and run with it towards the armed soldiers after they called on him to stop backs up his claim that he wanted the soldiers to shoot and kill him, or alternatively, that he wanted to be arrested."
Drachman also based her decision on the testimony of a psychiatrist who had treated Amro a month and a half prior to the incident. The psychiatrist attested that Amro had said, at that time, that he wanted to die. Amro was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds that he was apathetic to the possibility that other people could be hurt in the incident.
A second member of the three-judge panel, Rinat Levy-Moskovitch, concurred in the decision, but the third judge, Menahem Lieberman, dissented. Lieberman thought that the defendant should have been convicted of murder, an offense which under military law is defined as intentionally causing death. Judge Lieberman took the position that the defendant's conduct demonstrated that he had come to the area to commit murder.
Gelman was married and the father of two sons. He had completed his regular army service several months earlier and was in the reserves. He grew up in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba outside of Hebron and lived in Karmei Tzur, north of Hebron, at the time of his death.