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Netanyahu calls criticisms of Israeli army 'outrageous' in wake of Hebron killing

March 27, 2016 8:21 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2016 5:31 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted on Sunday to the shooting of a wounded Palestinian at point-blank range in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron earlier this week, stating that any questioning of the Israeli army’s moral integrity was “outrageous and unacceptable.”

During the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu commented in the wake of the killing of Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, on Thursday, which sparked widespread outrage after footage by Israeli rights group B’Tselem showed an Israeli soldier shooting al-Sharif in the head while the young Palestinian was lying wounded on the ground after allegedly stabbing an Israeli soldier.

Another Palestinian, 21-year-old Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, was also killed on the scene. One Israeli soldier was treated for moderate wounds.

“Any challenge to the morality of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is outrageous and unacceptable. The soldiers of the IDF, our children, maintain high ethical values while courageously fighting against bloodthirsty murderers under difficult operational conditions,” Netanyahu said.

“I am certain that in all cases, as in the current one, the inquiry takes into account all conditions,” he added. “We must all support the IDF Chief-of-Staff, the IDF and our soldiers, who safeguard our security.”

The Israeli army opened an investigation into the killing on Thursday, although rights groups have expressed serious doubts over Israeli authorities’ history of holding Israelis accountable for crimes against Palestinians.

Additional footage from B’Tselem was published by Israeli media on Sunday, revealing moments before al-Sharif was killed. The Palestinian activist who filmed the scene has said he has been threatened by Israeli settlers since the footage was made public.

In the video shared by Hebrew news website Walla, Israeli soldiers are heard saying “this dog is still alive” while speaking of al-Sharif.

An Israeli soldier is seen tying his shoelace near the wounded al-Sharif while Israeli settlers walk near the young Palestinian man lying on the ground, apparently belying the Israeli claim that he was perceived as a threat at the time he was killed.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu said the killing “(did) not represent the values of the IDF.”

However, 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.

Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said he strongly condemned the apparent "extrajudicial execution" of al-Sharif, calling it "a gruesome, immoral, and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation."

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.”

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."

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October, many of them while allegedly carrying out or attempting to carry out small-scale attacks against Israeli soldiers. Almost 30 Israelis have been killed during the same time period.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the wave of attacks, but said that Israeli security measures were failing to "address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians -- especially young people."

He added: "As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism."

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