The Military Police’s Test: Indict the Israeli Officer Who Shot Mahmoud Badran

Even if Palestinians were throwing rocks as the IDF claims, it was unlawful for the IDF soldiers to open fire on a passing vehicle.

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Mohammed Rafat Badran, 15, and the scene of a stone-throwing incident on Route 443.
Mohammed Rafat Badran, 15, and the scene of a stone-throwing incident on Route 443.Credit: Courtesy and IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Haaretz Editorial

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Israeli soldiers rained live fire down on a moving car from dozens of meters away, without having any idea who was in it. Their commander thought stone-throwers were fleeing in the car, so he opened fire at it and may have ordered his soldiers to do the same, in utter defiance of the army’s rules of engagement. The soldiers’ lives weren’t in danger, and their hail of bullets killed a 15-year-old boy, Mahmoud Badran, and wounded four other people in the car, all of whom had been returning from a late-night swim and had no connection to the stone throwers.

The Israel Defense Forces initially claimed that the soldiers killed someone who had been throwing stones at Route 443. Only a few hours later did it admit that this was a “mistaken” killing. But this claim should not be accepted. According to testimony collected by the B’Tselem organization, the soldiers shot around 15 bullets at the car. You don’t fire 15 bullets by mistake. Even if there had been fleeing stone-throwers in the car, it would have been forbidden for the soldiers to shoot them as they fled.

But we shouldn’t complain about the soldiers alone. The internal inquiry into the incident was conducted by none other than the commander of the Binyamin Brigade, Col. Yisrael Shomer. About a year ago, this same Colonel Shomer shot teenager Mohammad Kosba because he suspected the boy of having thrown stones at his vehicle. He chased Kosba, shot him three times from behind, hitting him in the upper body each time, and killing him. The IDF decided not to put him on trial, or even to remove him from his post. If that’s how the brigade commander behaves, how can we complain about his soldiers?

Nevertheless, the Military Police are obligated to investigate the latest incident quickly and efficiently and indict the officer and his soldiers for this unnecessary killing. Any delay or evasion that results in this case being buried – like most of its predecessors – will only strengthen the message to IDF soldiers that they are permitted to spray moving cars with live fire and kill stone-throwers or innocent people as they please.

An army whose officers and soldiers behave this way, and which doesn’t even put them on trial for it, is an army devoid of all restraint. And in that case, no flowery speeches – by the chief of staff, the defense minister or the prime minister – will help.

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