Soldiers Who Killed Unarmed Palestinian Say in Defense: Israel Rarely Charges for Such Offenses

A conviction would amount to selective enforcement, claim lawyers of soldiers accused of negligence and recklessness in shooting death of 16-year-old Samir Awad in 2013

The prosecution is negotiating a plea bargain in the case of two former soldiers accused of recklessness and negligence in the shooting death of a Palestinian teenager in 2013.

The men were serving in the Armored Corps at the time, one as a squad commander and the other as a member of the squad, when they shot and killed 16-year-old Samir Awad.

Samir Awad.

The lawyers for the two men argued that convicting the soldiers would be a selective enforcement of the law, since it is rare for an indictment to be brought against Israel Defense Force soldiers who shoot and kill Palestinians.

The two soldiers were participating in an ambush in the vicinity of the security barrier near the West Bank village of Budrus in January, 2013 when the incident occurred.

Awad had made his way through a breach in the first of two separation fences in a protest  that was common at the time against the barrier and, according to his family, on a dare by friends. He was the first of the group to cross the barrier. Earlier in the day other young Palestinians had approached the fence and had thrown stones and then retreated.

According to the indictment, the soldiers emerged from the ambush and began chasing Awad, who was trapped between the two fences. After the soldiers fired in the air, Awad climbed the fence in an effort to return to Palesinian territory.

At that point, one soldier fired two bullets at Awad. His commander then fired three more bullets. Awad was taken to a hospital in Ramallah, where he died of the gunshot wounds.

Because it is not possible to determine which of the bullets was the fatal one, the prosecution decided not to indict the soldiers for manslaughter, but instead on the lesser charges of recklessness and negligence — which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

During the hearing, attorneys for the accused argued that their clients should not be convicted because it was not proven that they acted negligently and because the law was being selectively enforced in their case. The attorneys presented military data showing that in the last seven years, out of 110 cases in which soldiers had shot and killed Palestinians, only four indictments were filed. The court expressed doubts as to its ability to convict the two men due to the issue of selective enforcement.

The defense lawyers also noted that firing at Palestinians attempting to cross the separation fence is allowed under army regulations.

The defense brought up the possibility of dismissing the charges. Negotiations are underway for a plea agreement and the prosecution is expected to present its decision prior to the next court hearing in the case on March 26.