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Israel opens probe after soldier shoots wounded Palestinian in head

March 24, 2016 7:14 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2016 1:02 P.M.)
(MaanImages/Zeidan al-Sharabati)
By: Emily Mulder

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli army opened an investigation on Thursday after video footage was released showing an Israeli soldier shoot and kill a wounded Palestinian -- lying on the ground and posing no threat -- at point-blank range.

The footage was captured by a field worker for Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, who began filming shortly after two Palestinians, Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, were shot down after allegedly stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron’s Old City.

Al-Qasrawi was killed immediately, while al-Sharif was left lying on the ground wounded.

The graphic video footage shows al-Sharif moving his head with his arms outstretched, surrounded by armed soldiers.

One of them then walks up to al-Sharif and shoots a bullet into his head.

Israeli officers and other armed individuals in the area at the time do not appear to react to the final shot.

Amnesty International called for the incident to be prosecuted as a potential war crime, saying: “The shooting of a wounded and incapacitated person, even if they have been involved in an attack, has absolutely no justification.”

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma’an that an investigation had been opened.

“The IDF views this incident as a grave breach of IDF values, conduct, and standards of military operations. A military police investigation has commenced and the soldier involved has been detained," the army said in a statement.

Israel has come under repeated criticism for what many have termed a “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinians advocated by Israeli officials since a wave of unrest began last October.

Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International, said that Thursday’s incident mirrored a number which took place previously.

“Israeli forces have a long history of carrying out unlawful killings -- including extrajudicial executions -- in the occupied Palestinian territories with impunity," he said.

"While it is encouraging that the soldier in the video has reportedly been suspended and placed under investigation, previous Israeli investigations have failed to hold members of the Israeli forces accountable even when there has been clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing."

He encouraged the Israeli authorities to “use this opportunity to end the culture of impunity that has made such killings increasingly commonplace.”

B’Tselem -- which has recently come under attack by Israel’s right -- has accused Israeli soldiers and police officers of becoming “judge, jury and executioner” during the past few months of violence, blaming official encouragement and effective impunity.

The UN's human rights monitor in the occupied Palestinian territory, Makarim Wibisono, has also slammed what he termed Israel’s “extrajudicial executions,” most recently during an address to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Wibisono also said that while wanton acts of individual violence -- committed by both Palestinians and Israelis -- were unacceptable, the recent surge in violence was "arising in a pre-existing context."

"Tensions have risen against a backdrop of illegal settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza, and a general lack of accountability," he said.

Palestinians have in the past voiced strong distrust of Israeli probes into violations carried out in the occupied area, and Amnesty International last summer said Israel’s system of military investigation failed to meet the standard criteria for effective investigations.
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