The Military Advocate General is to seek a sentence of three months’ community service for an Israeli soldier who shot and killed an innocent Palestinian, as part of a plea bargain signed with the solider.
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The 23-year-old victim, Ahmad Manasra, was helping a man who had been shot by the same soldier and seriously wounded. The soldier who killed Manasra was charged with negligent homicide, but was not charged for wounding the other man, although the first shooting is mentioned in the indictment.
According to an eyewitness, the soldier fired six bullets at Manasra.
The soldier has since been released from the Israel Defense Forces. The army did not respond to Haaretz’s query as to whether the soldier had continued in his combat role after the shooting.
The plea bargain, which states that the soldier will be given a three-month prison sentence that he will serve as community service, will be brought before the military court in Jaffa on Monday. The deal also states that the soldier will be given a suspended sentence and will be demoted to the rank of private.
This is the first time an indictment has been served against a soldier following the killing of a Palestinian since the case of Elor Azaria, who shot and killed a wounded and incapacitated assailant in Hebron in 2016.
According to the July indictment, in March of 2019 Alaa Raayda, the 38-year-old Palestinian who was shot in the stomach and seriously wounded, was driving his car together with his wife and two daughters when another car crashed into them at a junction near the village of El-Hadar in the southern West Bank. The other car fled the scene, and Raayda left his vehicle and waved his hands at the other car. The indictment states that the solider thought that Raayda was throwing stones at Israeli vehicles and proceeded to shout warnings and fire into the air before shooting at him.
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However, in Raayda’s affidavit, he states that he was shot outside his vehicle without warning, which is an infraction of the rules of engagement.
The indictment then states that Manasra came to Raayda’s aid, with three friends who had been on their way home with him after a wedding in Bethlehem. The three helped evacuate the wounded man to the hospital, while Manasra remained at the scene with Raayda’s wife and daughters to help them start their car. According to the indictment, Manasra was shot when he exited the car, and then shot again when he tried to flee the scene.
The indictment also states that the soldier started shooting when he “mistakenly thought" that Manasra "was the stone-thrower he has seen earlier… although in fact the man who was killed had not thrown stones."
In response to the plea bargain, Manasra’s father, Jamal, told Haaretz: “In our religion it says you have to help everyone. Look what happened to my son when he tried to help – they shot him dead. It doesn’t matter how much I talked to Israeli television and newspapers, nothing helped.”
Attorney Shlomo Lecker, who is representing the families of Raayda and Manasra, asked to appeal the plea bargain when it was issued last month. To this end, he asked for a letter summarizing the investigation, the reason the soldier had not been charged for shooting and wounding Raayda, and that the case had been closed. However, Lecker said the prosecutor in the case and the head of litigation, Maj. Matan Furst, refused to give him the document. On Thursday, Lecker submitted his appeal against the plea bargain based on the facts in the indictment, but his request to postpone the hearing until after a decision on his petition was rejected.
According to Lecker: “The higher echelons of the army convey a message to soldiers in the occupied territories that if they shoot Palestinians for no reason, killing and wounding them, the punishment will be three months of raking leaves” at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that on the day of the shooting, “a warning had been received shortly before the shooting of a possible terror attack in the area,” adding that “the indictment was filed in the context of a plea bargain after a hearing. In the framework of the plea bargain the soldier is expected to take responsibility and admit to the facts of the indictment before the court."
The plea agreement is subject to the approval of the military court and will be presented to it in the near future. In coming to a decision regarding the charges and the sentence, complex evidentiary and legal elements were taken into consideration, as well as the clear operational circumstances of the event, and the willingness of the soldier to take responsibility, the IDF said.
The statement said that “contrary to the claims of the representative of the families of the killed and wounded men,” there has been an ongoing dialogue with him for a long time … thus the representative was informed of the negotiations and he was given the opportunity to respond. He also received a copy of the indictment and it was explained that he could convey any information he saw fit with regard to his clients, which would be brought before the military court when the plea bargain was presented. The hearing was also put off for a week at the request of the parties, which was filed at [Lecker’s] request.”