Israeli Army Investigating 20 Possible Cases of Wrongful Shootings of Palestinians

IDF legal officials order investigation into death of every Palestinian not involved in combat activity, but testimonies from past 10 months yield only one indictment.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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The scene of the stabbing at Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate, December 23, 2015.
The scene of a stabbing at Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate, December 2015. The Military Police is investigating over 20 shootings of Palestinians. Credit: AFP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israeli army is currently investigating over 20 incidents in which Palestinians were shot dead or wounded since the start of the terror wave last October, Haaretz has learned.

The Israel Defense Forces has gathered testimonies from soldiers involved in the incidents, and in some cases asked human rights organizations, such as B’Tselem, for more details regarding the events.

The Military Advocate General orders an investigation into the death of every Palestinian in the West Bank “who isn’t involved in actual combat activity.” For this reason, most of the investigations opened by the Military Police in recent months have mainly involved cases in which Palestinians were shot during confrontations with defense forces, rather than in the course of a terror attack or an attempted terror attack.

However, the only investigation that has ended in an indictment so far was following a terror attack: Sgt. Elor Azaria is standing trial for manslaughter after fatally shooting Palestinian assailant Abdel Fattah al-Sharif after the Palestinian attacked soldiers in Hebron last March. Sharif was first shot by Azaria’s fellow soldiers and was lying on the ground wounded when Azaria shot him again.

In his defense, Azaria says he felt his life had been in danger because he believed the assailant was carrying a bomb, while the prosecution believes he shot Sharif as revenge for his wounded friend.

Investigations have been launched into two separate incidents in which 13-year-old Palestinian children died. In October 2015, Abed al-Rahman Obeidallah was killed in the Al-Aida refugee camp after being shot with a live 0.22-inch caliber bullet, which is seen as less lethal than regular bullets.

According to an inquiry carried out by B’Tselem, a sniper shot Obeidallah in broad daylight.

In February, meanwhile, Haitham Saada was shot dead near the West Bank town of Halhul. The army said he was shot as he was about to throw a firebomb onto the nearby Route 60. Saada’s cousin, who was with him at the time, was arrested by the IDF.

The Military Police are also investigating the fatal shooting of Malik Shahin, 19, in the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, last December. According to B’Tselem, Shahin was shot in the head. The IDF said that, according to the preliminary reports of the troops involved, the soldiers only fired into the air. The incident occurred during clashes that included improvised bombs and firebombs being thrown at the soldiers.

The Military Police are also investigating the killing of Mahmoud Badran, 15, who was shot by soldiers in June. The soldiers fired at the car Badran and his family were traveling in near Route 443, while chasing Palestinians who had thrown stones at Israeli cars on the highway. The soldiers were questioned under caution. The investigators have gathered findings from the site and are trying to ascertain if the shooting was carried out in accordance with the rules of engagement and if it was appropriate to the threat facing the soldiers.

The Military Police are also investigating an incident in which soldiers shot dead yeshiva student Simcha Hodedtov, 28, whom they mistook for a terrorist, near Jerusalem’s central bus station last October. The soldiers had been dispatched to Jerusalem following the terror outbreak earlier that month.

A military source said this particular investigation will probably be closed with no criminal indictment, since the soldiers thought Hodedtov had tried to grab one of the soldier’s guns.

The defense establishment has identified the shooting incident near the West Bank settlement Itamar on October 1, 2015 as the beginning of the current wave of violence in the West Bank. Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were killed by a Hamas terror cell in the drive-by shooting.

October was the most violent month: The IDF registered 70 attacks then, mostly stabbings or attempted stabbings of civilians and defense forces. Since then, the number of attacks have declined. In each of the last four months, the number of attacks has been below 10 each month, the army says.

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