Israeli Officer Opened Fire Against Regulations, Killed a Palestinian Boy - but Won't Be Prosecuted

The officer will only be dismissed from the army for failures in conduct during the incident

The army officer who killed a Palestinian teen after opening fire against regulations will apparently not stand trial, but will instead be dismissed from the army for failures in conduct during the incident.

The incident in question occurred late at night in June 2016. The officer, from the Kfir Brigade, was traveling in a car with two soldiers on road 443 from Modiin to Jerusalem.

Mahmoud Batran, the boy who was killed in the shooting.

The three were in civilian dress, not on duty at the time, and the officer had fallen asleep in the back seat. Right after they passed the Maccabim checkpoint, near the Beit Sira checkpoint, they noticed rocks and an oil slick on the road, and a bus on the roadside that seemed to have been hit earlier by rocks. The soldiers shouted at the officer that stones were being thrown, and he ordered them to turn around and drive against the traffic to the point where he thought the stones had been thrown from.

The officer ran with a soldier to a high point with a view of the surroundings and saw a car driving a few dozen meters away, along a side road that passes beneath road 443 and connects the Palestinian villages.

At no point did the officer see or identify the stone-throwers, but he thought that because the car was near the place, its occupants were the stone-throwers trying to flee the scene. The officer ordered the soldier with him to open fire at the cars tires, and opened fire himself. After massive fire, the car stopped on the side of the road. Its occupants turned out to be a number of young Palestinians coming back from a swimming pool. They were wounded by the gunfire, and Mahmoud Batran, 15, from the northern West Bank village of Beit Ur e-Tahta, was killed.

The IDF realized early on that this was a case of mistaken identity and the occupants of the car had no connection to the stone-throwers.

The scene of the stone-throwing incident near Israel's Route 443, June 21, 2016.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

A Military Police investigation found major failures in the conduct of the officer and the soldier at the scene, and that the officer had contravened the laws of engagement by opening fire as he did. These rules state that in the West Bank, when soldiers are arresting a suspect when a vehicle is involved, if there is no danger to soldiers, they are supposed to fire in the air only, not at the tires. 

The investigation found that Mahmud Badran was killed in the shooting. Hadi Badran, also 15, who was in the car and was wounded in the arm and chest, told the human rights group BTselem: I was sitting in the middle seat. We came close to the passage under road 443. Suddenly we were fired at. I looked to see where the shooting was coming from and I saw a white civilian vehicle. There were two men in civilian dress who were firing at us. The bullets hit the car and smashed the windows. We were hit and we started to shout. I put my head down between the seats. The driver immediately crashed into the retaining wall of the passage. Daud Badran, 13, who was also in the car, told BTselem that the bullets hit the car from the roof. I was afraid and I covered my head with my hands and put my head between my legs. I stood under the bridge and then I felt another bullet hit my right leg. Daud Badran said another occupant of the car got out with him, but ran in another direction. The other occupant, named as Majed, came back and discovered that Mahmoud Badran was dead.

It was decided not to charge the officer with negligent manslaughter because an examination of the findings from the soldiers point of view during the incident was taken into account. This examination found that the officer did indeed think that the occupants of the car were terrorists who had been throwing stones at cars on the highway, and that the mistake in identity was reasonable under the circumstances. The army accepted the officers claim that late at night on a side road, it was correct to conclude that the occupants of the car were stone-throwers.

The IDF Spokesmans Office said that the findings were still being examined by the Military Advocate Generals office and a decision had not been made.