An army probe into two separate shooting incidents involving settlers and Palestinians last month indicated that Israeli teens tied and beat a Palestinian who had been shot and wounded near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, a senior IDF officer told Haaretz on Saturday.
Last week, just one week following a similar clash was recorded, an Israeli settler shot and wounded a Palestinian man in a clash that began when a group of settlers set fire to fields belonging to a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank.
Residents said about 25 settlers, some of them carrying guns, set fire to wheat fields in the village of Orif, which is near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Some villagers came out to extinguish the fire and clashed with the settlers, said Nablus official Ghassan Daglas. Israeli soldiers then came to the scene and broke up the clashes.
The Palestinian was shot in the stomach, medical officials said, and taken to the hospital.
In the wake of both incidents, the IDF confiscated the weapons of members of Yitzhar's security response team. West Bank police have opened investigations into the incidents.
The inquiry of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Brigade into the incidents – the first of which occurred on May 19 and the second a week later on May 26, found that members of the security response team operated against orders and regulations.
The inquiry into the first incident near Assira al-Kabaliya found that it began when both sides, the settlers and the Palestinians, hurled stones at one another, at a distance of some 50 meters from the village.
A small IDF force arrived at the scene. Its officer approached the Palestinians and attempted to prompt them to leave, when a settler fired in the air behind him. At that point, the officer turned back towards the settlers. As he was approaching, a settler fired his pistol at the Palestinians.
"The findings are that due to the way the shots were fired, they didn't pose an immediate threat to life, as can be seen from the fact that they shot in the air," a high ranking officer in the Division command said. "For this reason it is more appropriate that the police investigate the incident."
Colonel Yoav Yaron, commander of the Samaria Territorial Brigade, conducted the inquiry into the conduct of the settler response team, who claimed they fired over the Palestinians' heads. Regarding the claims that the officer on scene stood idly by as the settlers were shooting at the Palestinians, Colonel Yaron rejected the claim:
"[He] didn’t stand idly by, he ran and didn't stand about for a second, rushing into the scene right away. It is true that from the pictures it looks like he was standing around. If this in fact happened it was only for a second or two. He was in quite a hurry to take control of them and the behavior shows it. He walked towards the Palestinians, saw he was unable [to get them to settle down], and unfortunately wasn't able to prevent the injury that occurred."
The inquiry of the second incident, taking place May 26, found that a group of youths coming from Yitzhar tied the hands and beat a Palestinian that was shot by the settlement's response team. They weren't arrested – the army said that the unit on the scene was too busy.
According to a high ranking officer in the Judea and Samaria Division the torture of the wounded youth lasted seconds, and the military unit on scene arrived "quite immediately after the bullet was shot. They prevented what could have occurred."
The Inquiry of the second incident found that it also started with mutual incidents of arson. The inquiry states that some Palestinians from Urif made their way to the settlement while the settlement's response team was on its way to put out the fires accompanied by "youths that came to create friction," according to the officer.
Shortly after, both sides started throwing stones at each other, when the group of teenagers started shouting that they see an armed Palestinian. The IDF officer on scene radioed this in.
The response team which was located at the limits of its jurisdiction, decided to move in. The Israeli teenagers, located 15 meters from the Palestinians, laid low and directed the response team that was 50 meters away towards the place they claimed the armed Palestinian was seen. The response team fired at the Palestinian hitting him in the abdomen, at which point they ran towards the wounded Palestinian youth tied his hands together and began beating him.
Only once a company commander reached the scene did they stop. A soldier that accompanied the officer began treating the Palestinian, trying to stabilize his condition.
According to the high ranking officer from the division "the incident was very grave in respect to the teenagers' behavior that both tied him and held him down at that point. He was lucky that the army arrived relatively quickly, and once he was taken away the incident quieted down relatively."
The Palestinian had a knife among his belongings. And the military inquiry found that he broke his cell phone after being wounded. This is also being looked into by the military. When asked if the Palestinian's shooting was justified, the officer responded that the army had yet to conclude its investigation, but gave his estimate that it was "borderline."
"It isn't enough that someone shouts 'gunmen, gunmen,' a clear danger to life must be identified," the officer said.
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