Israel's top brass is expected to decide on whether to take disciplinary action against a number of commanders in the Kfir infantry brigade who were involved in the shooting deaths of four young Palestinians near Nablus last month.
On March 20, 16-year-old Mohammed Kadus and 20-year-old Oseyd Abd al-Nasser Kadus of the village of Iraq Burin were shot by Israeli soldiers trying to quell a riot. Two more young Palestinians were killed just 24 hours later.
The deputy commander of the Nachshon Battalion led troops into the village to try to arrest Palestinians who were causing disturbances and to prevent the unrest from reaching the nearby Israeli settlement of Har Bracha.
An Israel Defense Forces probe into the killings revealed that the deputy battalion commander received clearance from his superiors to use rubber-coated bullets against Palestinians who had blocked the road leading to the village. Crowds of Palestinians also began to gather around army vehicles in the area.
Later that day, reports emerged indicating that two Palestinian youths were killed. Palestinians and human rights organizations claim that the army used live fire which resulted in the killing.
GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi, the central command chief, ordered a probe into the incident. Since no autopsy was performed on the bodies, army investigators were unable to determine whether live fire was used.
Nonetheless, Mizrahi characterized the incident as "an unnecessary operational event whose results are grave." The general ordered his people to reinforce the rules and procedures for dealing with Palestinian disturbances and to examine alternate methods of riot control.
Meanwhile, Mizrahi determined that the Kfir Brigade's top commander, Colonel Itzik Bar, who was present during the shooting, should have chosen an alternate mode of action. Sending soldiers to a village created another flashpoint and exacerbated tensions on the ground, Mizrahi says.
The probe's conclusions will be submitted to Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi this week. The chief of staff will then have to decide whether to act on its recommendations.
In addition, the military police is investigating whether live fire was used in the shooting of the youths. The police are also trying to figure out which soldiers did the shooting.
The other shooting incident in question occurred just 24 hours later. Mohammed Faisal Koarik and Salah Mohammed Koarik, both 19-year-old residents of the Nablus-area village of Awarta, died after being shot during a riot. Here, soldiers from the Nachshon Brigade entered the village to contain the demonstrations.
Mizrahi said the probe showed the shooting to be "very serious," adding that he would consider blaming the commanders involved.
The IDF says one of the Palestinians was behaving suspiciously after he was searched by Israeli troops. During the search, the young man attacked one of the soldiers with a bottle.
According to the probe, the soldier who was attacked felt that his life was threatened, so he opened fire. After the initial shooting, the other young man was seen brandishing a sharp object. The commander of the squad believed that the man was trying to lunge at him and attack. This prompted the commander to shoot.
Mizrahi said he believed that the soldiers could have acted more professionally and not shot.
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