IDF Probe: Soldiers Who Killed Teenage Palestinian Stone-thrower Were Not in Danger

Internal army investigation of recent West Bank incidents shows that soldiers who shot Palestinians were not at risk, and could have avoided opening fire in some cases.

IDF soldiers at the Tapuah junction following the shooting of a Palestinian woman, on October 20, 2016.
Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP

An internal document from an Israel Defense Forces investigation states that army and Border Police forces could have acted differently in recent incidents involving the shooting of Palestinians – and in some cases could even avoided opening fire.

On Tuesday morning, Israel Radio reported the main conclusions of the document, which related to four incidents that took place during the last two weeks in the West Bank, during which Palestinians were killed or seriously injured.

The internal investigation by Military Police that was launched revealed that the lives of the soldiers who shot Khaled Bahar, a 15-year-old Palestinian from Beit Ummar last Thursday, were not in danger.

The soldiers reported that they followed proper procedures for arresting a suspect after Bahar threw rocks at cars on Route 60 near his village, north of Hebron. They said they got out of their army jeep and began chasing the stone throwers, whereupon the force's commander shot and killed Bahar, who was one of a number of youths at the scene. One soldier was wounded lightly from the rocks.

The investigation found that the soldiers’ lives were not in danger, and that they could have acted differently in this case. However, their commander reported that he felt their lives were indeed danger, and thus he fired shots at the body of the Palestinian teen.

The document also states that in another incident last week, during which Border Police officers were involved, over 30 bullets were fired at a Palestinian woman who was shot and killed at the Tapuah Junction. Raheeq al-Birawi had apparently approached a Border Police force and pulled out a knife, whereupon one of the officers present fired at her legs and wounded her. However, then, as can be seen in a video of the incident, four other officers also opened fire at her. An Israeli car at the scene belonging to a resident of Ariel was damaged by the shooting.

The Border Police, who said the incident is still under internal investigation, claimed that once Birwawi was incapacitated, the officers stopped their fire.

The IDF document also relates to another incident, at al-Ram early last week, during which Border Police officers shot at a car that broke through a the checkpoint. An internal inquest found that the Palestinian driver was wearing earphones and therefore did not here the police's orders to stop the vehicle. The officers thought it was an attempt to run them over and fired at the car, but did not hit it. The document stated there was need to open fire because their lives were not in danger and they were in an armored jeep.

Following an incident 10 days ago in the Jelazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, during clashes between IDF forces and Palestinians, army investigators found that the soldiers involved were justified in opening fire, although their conduct was deemed deficient for various reasons. During the confrontations, some 50 Palestinians burned tires and threw rocks at the soldiers, who retaliated by using live ammunition, tear-gas grenades and rubber bullets.

The soldiers reported later that they did not see anyone hit by their fire. Only after the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that two people had been wounded in the shooting, one severely and one moderately, did the IDF realize that its soldiers had wounded Palestinians in the incident. Their commander was subsequently summoned for a hearing on the matter with the battalion commander.