Israeli Military Police Probing Shooting of Asylum Seekers on Sinai Border

Military Advocate General orders investigation into months-old incident in which IDF changed its story twice.

An armored Israeli military vehicle drives along Israel's border with the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. January 30, 2014.

The Military Police is investigating a case in which soldiers fired at asylum seekers on the Israel-Egypt border more than four months ago. Three asylum seekers were wounded in the incident and taken to the hospital, while the rest were imprisoned in the Saharonim detention facility.

The investigation was opened at the order of the Military Advocate General (MAG), who ruled that the shooting was allegedly a criminal offense. However, four months after it began, the investigation is still ongoing. Once completed, the MAG will decide if any of the soldiers who fired at the asylum seekers are to be indicted.

In August, the army changed its story on the shooting twice. First it said that some of the asylum seekers had been wounded while crossing the border and were taken to hospital for treatment. Then it said they had probably been shot by Egyptian police. Only after an internal investigation did the IDF say that the three migrants were wounded by Israeli troops.

A military investigation found that an IDF detail noticed the group of asylum seekers and started rounding them up. The procedure consisted of shooting in the air and then at the asylum seekers’ legs. An armed man who accompanied the group fired at Egyptian policemen, who were trying to prevent the asylum seekers from entering Israel.

After Haaretz reported the army’s different versions of the incident, the army held another investigation, this time headed by then Southern Command chief Sami Turgeman, who concluded that the shooting had been unjustified and in breach of the rules of engagement.

The MAG then asked for the inquiry’s findings to see if there is any suspicion of criminal action and ordered the Military Police to investigate the case.