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Killing a Child Is 'Not Right', but Not Wrong Enough for an Indictment

Israeli prosecutors concluded that the two soldiers acted properly when they shot and killed an unarmed teenager 10 meters away as he ran away from them

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinian and Israeli activists flee tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, on November 17, 2016.
Palestinian and Israeli activists flee tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, on November 17, 2016. Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

A.G. and A.D. presumably celebrated. Maybe they raised a toast with their lawyers at some fashionable pub, or perhaps they just basked in the good news with their families. It was the relief of their lives. The poor souls’ nightmare is over. How they harassed them when the teenager was killed, but all’s well that ends well: The central district prosecution decided last week to withdraw the indictment against them, two-and-a-half years after it was filed.

True, it was sickeningly ridiculous that they were charged with “an act of haste and negligence” for shooting an unarmed, already wounded teenager in the back as he was running or his life. Still, it was an indictment, which itself was only filed after the deceased’s family and B’Tselem petitioned the High Court of Justice.

For a moment it seemed as if the two would be given a suspended sentence of maybe a day, or even a one-penny fine for killing a boy who had not yet turned 16, even though he didn’t pose any danger or threat to them. But even this faint hope for a remnant of delayed and symbolic justice – for even the faintest likeness of justice – was dashed, and what could be more predictable than that?

The indictment was withdrawn. A.G. and A.D. acted properly when they shot an unarmed teenager from a range of 10 meters as he ran from them. They violated nothing. Their act of killing wasn’t even hasty or negligent. They are good soldiers, excellent ones, even though the day after the killing a senior officer said, “Something that wasn’t right happened there.” Not right, but apparently not wrong enough. So go ahead, dear soldiers; continue to kill Palestinian teenagers who don’t endanger you. You can even kill them as they run away, because no harm will come to you.

A.G. and A.D. were a platoon commander and a soldier from the 71st Battalion of the Armored Corps. They shot from behind and killed Samir Awad, who tried to cross the fence that constricts his village, as he ran from an ambush the soldiers had set up in the prickly-pear bushes. They shot him in the back and will never be punished for their act. They shot him in the leg first, and after he fell wounded and got back on his feet they managed to grab him by the arm, but he got away from them. Then they shot him twice from behind, a bullet to the back of his neck and a bullet in his back, killing him. So now they can calmly fly off to India or Costa Rica for their post-army trip – perhaps they’ve already done so – and forget everything. But the home of the boy they killed in Budrus will never be the same again.

It was winter 2013, the last day before the semester break. The science exam was over, and the pupils left the school, located around 200 meters from the fence. Six of them came down the hill, for their usual test of courage – crossing the fence. It was Munir, Hosni, Muhammad, Saher, Musa and Samir.

The first five sensed danger and decided to back off. Samir chose to continue. He did not know that six soldiers lurked among the cactuses. He crossed an old hole in the inner fence and was caught in the space between two fences. Then the soldiers of the brave Reshef battalion emerged from their hiding places and shot in the air. Samir was scared to death and tried to retrace his steps. His legs got tangled in the brambles. They shot him in the thigh. He managed to extract himself and began to run, wounded, back toward the village. They shot him twice more from behind. The indictment that was annulled detailed the serious deviations from the rules of engagement.

When I came to the village the day after the killing, Samir’s blood was still smeared on the rocks. Here the soldiers hid, and here he was caught between two fences and here’s where they shot him. The picture was clear, the facts decisive. After two and a half years of intensive investigation it emerged that there was no evidence. In the interim, Israeli soldiers also killed Lafi Awad, in the same place, the same way. Why not? The two graves are next to each other, and the two killers are already someplace else.

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