The soldier who shot a Palestinian attacker while he was wounded in Hebron on Thursday was recorded shaking hands with far-right activist Baruch Marzel while the body of the assailant was removed from the scene.
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The video, which was also recorded by a B'Teselem fieldworker, shows the soldier, whose name remains under a court-issued gag order, walking behind his company commander as the two walk away from the body of Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, as other soldiers were covering it and lifting it on to a stretcher.
The soldier is then seen approaching a rescue worker and briefly speaking with him. Marzel approaches the two, and is seen shaking hands with the soldier who shot Sharif, who in turn pats him on the arm. In other photos taken by foreign press agencies, the soldier is seen smiling alongside Marzel. The documentation of their encounter lasts only dozens of seconds, as the video continues and focuses on the removal of the bodies of the assailant and his accomplice from the scene.
A media adviser to the family of the soldier responded to the report. "We’re not commenting on rumors of any kind that are meant to continue to tarnish the image of an outstanding IDF fighter. We regret that Haaretz is lending a hand to meaningless gossip that has no operational link to the incident."
"If I had known that he was that one who killed the terrorist I would have also kissed and hugged him," Marzel said after the video was published. "Anyone who kills a terrorist deserves a medal.
"I love all of the soldiers and [I] shake hands to all of the soldiers and have no intention to apologize for it I was not previously acquitted with the soldier, but I love all soldiers and appreciate them," Marzel added. "[Peace Now head Yariv] Oppenheimer and Breaking the Silence are fighting the soldiers, I strengthen them. Choose which side you are on."
Boston-born Marzel, a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane, was the latter's successor as leader of the Kach movement, which Israel outlawed in 1994 after Kach supporter Baruch Goldstein shot and killed 29 Muslim worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Marzel was convicted in 1996 of assaulting soldiers who were trying to arrest a settler. The judge deplored Marzel's ideology of contempt for the law, but didn't sentence him to prison.
Additional videos published by B'Tselem on Sunday show the soldiers a short time after the attack, looking at ease and walking around near Sharif's body. At one point one of the soldiers can even be seen tying his shoelaces near the body.
The soldier claimed in his military police investigation that he shot Sharif because he feared for his life. He also said during the investigation "I carried out the shooting while the terrorist was alive. I did so because I felt in mortal danger." His attorney, Ilan Katz, said during a hearing last Friday at the Jaffa Military Court that the shooting was carried out in accordance with the military's open-fire procedures.
On Sunday, Army Radio reported that the military investigation found that the soldier told one of his friends that the "terrorist needs to die" for stabbing another soldier. Despite the latter's efforts to calm him down, the soldier then shot the Palestinian. Attorney Katz denied this statement, but declined to comment on further details.
It has been clarified to the soldier in his investigation that he is suspected of murder. Operational Affairs Attorney Lt. Col. Adoram Riegler said during the hearing that it constitutes "suspicion of very grave offenses." Court justice Lt. Col. Ronen Schur determined that the investigation material "indicates a reasonable suspicion that the suspect fired unlawfully under the circumstances, and that this shooting might have led to the death of the terrorist, who at the time remained lying on the ground after he was shot earlier."
A poll published by Channel 2 News on Saturday showed that most of the public (57 percent) believed that there was no need to detain and investigate the soldier, compared to 32 percent who supported it. Forty-two percent of respondents defined the soldier's behavior as "responsible," 24 percent believed that it was a natural reaction to a stressful situation, 19 percent said it constituted a deviation from orders and 5 percent defined the shooting of the wounded assailant as murder – the offense the soldier is suspected of. More than two-thirds of the respondents had reservations about IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's decisive statements against the shooting, while 21 percent sided with them.
The mother of the soldier suspected of the murder wrote to Ya'alon on Sunday. "I am the mother of the soldier that you sent on a mission to protect the country's citizens and you have abandoned him. A mother who sent her son to protect the country and its citizens, and the establishment reciprocates by firing back and silencing his voice. I am the mother of the 19-year-old boy who is standing alone in front of the political and military leadership and can’t take it on."
"Bring us the boy back, bring us our lives back. Remember and don’t forget that you stood in my son's place, only in the room of Abu Jihad, and confirmed the kill of a despicable terrorist and murderer," she wrote, referring to Ya'alon's part in the 1988 assassination of a senior Fatah leader. "On Thursday my son also stood against a murderous terrorist, but the tables have turned and the terrorist who came to murder became a Righteous among the Nations and my son became the murderer. Have we gone crazy?!"