Israel's Top Court Delays Sentencing of Soldier Who Shot and Killed Innocent Palestinian

Family of victim, killed while trying to assist family that suffered car accident, petitioned High Court against lenient plea deal of three months' community service

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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A banner with Ahmad Manasra's image at his mourning tent in the West Bank, 2019.
A banner with Ahmad Manasra's image at his mourning tent in the West Bank, 2019. Credit: Alex Levac
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The High Court of Justice ordered a military court on Tuesday not to sentence a soldier who shot dead an innocent Palestinian providing help to a family that had been in a car accident. The High Court issued the interim order to halt sentencing until it hears a petition from the victim’s family objecting to the plea bargain reached with the soldier.

The petition was filed by Shlomo Lecker, the attorney for the family of the victim, 23-year-old Ahmad Manasra, and Alaa Raida, a Palestinian who was also shot by the same soldier and seriously wounded. Military prosecutors proposed a sentence of three months’ community service in lieu of prison for the soldier, who has since completed his military service.

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The soldier was charged with negligent homicide, but was not charged for injuring Raida – even though his shooting was mentioned in the indictment. The petition asks the military prosecution to explain why the indictment does not include the wounding of Raida, and why a lenient plea bargain deal was reached with the soldier.

According to the indictment, an accident occurred in March of 2019 while Raida was driving with his wife and two daughters. Another car crashed into them near the West Bank village of al-Khader, near Bethlehem, then fled the scene. Raida stopped his car near an intersection, got out and waved his arms at the fleeing car. According to the indictment, the soldier, who was in a concrete pillbox near the intersection, thought Raida was throwing stones at cars. He called out a warning and fired into the air before shooting Raida, per the indictment.

However, an affidavit submitted by Raida says he was shot outside his car without a warning, contravening the army’s rules for opening fire. He was wounded in the stomach and evacuated from the area in serious condition.

The indictment notes the assistance Manasra gave Raida after arriving at the scene with three friends who were returning with him from a wedding in Bethlehem. The three friends helped evacuate Raida to a hospital, while Manasra stayed at the scene with Raida’s wife and daughters, helping them restart their car. According to the indictment, he was shot while emerging from his car and shot again while trying to get away.

At the beginning of September, Justice Noam Sohlberg ruled that the High Court would hear the petition against the plea bargain arrangement. The soldier’s lawyers later submitted a request for the court to sentence their client. Military prosecutors and the State Prosecutor’s Office said there was no reason not to hold a hearing on the sentencing, even though the High Court petition had yet to be decided. In response, Lecker submitted another request for the interim order against the sentencing, saying a verdict would make the petition merely theoretical and superfluous.

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