After Four Months, Israel Probes Incident of Settler Who Fired Soldier’s Weapon at Palestinians

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A still from the video showing a settler firing at Palestinians with an Israeli army soldier's weapon.
A still from the video showing a settler firing at Palestinians with an Israeli army soldier's weapon.Credit: B'Tselem

Israel Police launched an investigation last month into an incident where a settler was filmed shooting at Palestinians in the West Bank with a gun he had taken from an Israeli army soldier.

However, the settler, whose identity has been known from the day of the incident, which took place on June 26 near the illegal outpost of Havat Maon in the South Hebron Hills has not yet been summoned for questioning.

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Haaretz has learned that the army's decision not to submit an official complaint against the shooter and not release his name came because he's father was a senior Israel Defense Forces officer who was killed a few years ago in a clash with militants. The IDF top officers know the identity of the settler, and the matter reached the office of the army chief of staff.

Police confirmed that soldiers who were present at the scene of the incident have been called in to give testimony. As Haaretz reported, police said the army did not file a complaint, while military sources confirmed that a weapon had been taken and fired at Palestinians, and that an official complaint had not been filed with the police. However, contrary to the police claim, sources said that on the day of the incident there were a number of conversations between army field officers and police officers in the Judea and Samaria District.

The police said they were not familiar with the video that shows the incident, was published in the media. When they checked their records again, they found that a Palestinian had called the police emergency line to report that Palestinians were under fire. The caller also noted that he had a video clip showing the man firing at them.

Now, four months after the incident, the police spokesman’s office said: “The Palestinian witness was summoned to give testimony, but he did not come. He was also asked to hand over the film he claims to have but he has not yet done so.”

However, the Palestinian man told Haaretz that the police contacted him for the first time two weeks ago, asking him to come in and give testimony and give them the video, after Haaretz’s previous report on the story. He was unable to go to the police station at the requested time and is expected to go in next week.

The Palestinian said he contacted attorney Quamar Mishriqi of the human rights NGO Haqel while the incident was happening, and Mishriqi called police, who came to the scene. The man witnessed them collect the shells that were on the ground. But the police did not seek out the Palestinian man for almost four months. About four days after the incident, Mishriqi contacted the Hebron police station and the legal adviser of the Judea and Samaria District police, as well as the military advocate general’s office. In September, Mishriqi received a response from the legal adviser that he had passed on the details of the incident to police and the IDF regional brigade.

The IDF insisted that on the day of the incident, the report reached the police field officers, but confirmed that an official complaint had not been filed against the shooter. The army and police accused each other of mishandling the affair.

The police responded: “When the report of the incident was received, an investigation was launched that is still underway. Naturally, no further details can be given. However, a number of actions have been carried out, including taking testimony. We will continue to investigate the case thoroughly and professionally with the goal of bringing those involved to justice.”

Despite the police response, sources in the police told Haaretz three weeks ago that the investigation had not yet been launched. “No complaint or report of the incident has been received from the IDF or any other entity,” a source said.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office described the June 26 incident as a violent incident between Palestinians and settlers, which occurred when “an IDF soldier picked up a settler in an army vehicle and asked him for directions. When they arrived at the site, stones were thrown at the vehicle. In response, the settler took the soldier’s gun and fired into the air. Due to the seriousness of the incident, the soldier was immediately summoned for questioning by the brigade commander and orders were clarified. To remove all doubt, the settler’s identity is known.”

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