Israeli Officer Who Killed Palestinian Teen Faces Likely Punishment

Military probe finds Mahmoud Rafat Badran, 15, was shot mistakenly after attack on Israelis, but it's too early to say whether the investigation will lead to a criminal indictment.

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The Israeli army’s Central Command was continuing its investigation on Wednesday of the killing of 15-year-old Mahmoud Rafat Badran, who was shot by soldiers on the Jerusalem-Modiin road (Route 443) early Tuesday morning.

The investigation showed that the Palestinian teenager was shot when the soldiers opened fire from a range of a few dozen meters at a Palestinian car that the troops’ commander mistakenly thought was carrying those who had earlier thrown large stones and firebombs at Israeli cars traveling on the road.

The investigation is being conducted in the Binyamin Regional Brigade and the results will be presented to the Israel Defense Forces commander in the West Bank, the head of Central Command and the chief of General Staff. A Military Police investigation has also been launched, after the army made it clear that the teenager had been killed by mistake and was not involved in stone-throwing.

According to the IDF, the incident occurred around half a kilometer east of the Maccabim checkpoint, in the Jerusalem-bound lane, where five Palestinian youths set an ambush for Israeli vehicles near an interchange that connects the road to Palestinian villages and passes under Route 443. The youths spread rocks on the road and poured some 20 liters of oil on the asphalt as well. When cars approached and noticed the stones, they slowed down and were then attacked with stones and firebombs. Two passengers in a private car were lightly wounded by stones and glass shards, as was a bus passenger, and other cars were damaged.

During the incident a military vehicle passed that was carrying an officer who serves as a platoon commander in the Kfir Brigade’s Duchifat battalion and two soldiers. The three, who belong to the IDF contingent positioned near Ramallah, were not en route to the scene. But when their vehicle was also hit by stones, the officer made a U-turn and returned to the section of the road where the stone barrier had been placed.

Mohammed Rafat Baderan, 15, was shot and killed by IDF forces along Route 443. June 21, 2016.Credit: Courtesy

The officer and one of the soldiers got out of the vehicle and noticed Palestinian cars on the lower road. According to testimony, one of the cars seemed to be fleeing the area at high speed. At that point, the Palestinian car was fired upon (as of Wednesday it wasn’t clear if the officer fired alone, or whether the soldier fired as well). The gunfire killed Baderan, a resident of Beit Ur a-Tahta, and wounded four other Palestinians, apparently all of them passengers in the car.

It turned out that the officer had erred, and that the actual attackers had managed to flee the area shortly before that. Although the officer was responding to the sight of damaged Israeli cars and the wounded, he shot at the wrong person, fired many bullets and the consequences were grave.

As a result, it’s likely that disciplinary action will be taken against the officer. At this stage, however, it’s too early to estimate whether the Military Police probe will lead to a criminal indictment. There have already been many instances in which the military prosecution believed that the circumstances – such as the killing’s having occurred during an attack on Israelis – mitigated the gravity of the offense, and was willing to let the army handle it with disciplinary measures.

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