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B'Tselem: Palestinian killed alongside Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron was also 'executed'

June 6, 2016 9:48 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2016 7:19 P.M.)
Footage released by Israeli NGO B'Tselem shows the body of Palestinian Ramzi al-Qasrawi, who was killed by Israeli forces in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Credit: B'Tselem)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After footage released by human rights organization B’Tselem sparked outrage over the execution-style killing of a Palestinian by an Israeli soldier in March, witnesses said that a second Palestinian killed in the case was also shot in the head, the Israeli NGO revealed on Monday.

In a statement, B’Tselem said it had spoken with two witnesses from the Tel Rumeida area of the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, where Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, 21, and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, 21, were shot and killed after the two allegedly stabbed and moderately wounded an Israeli soldier at a military checkpoint on March 24.

A graphic video released by B’Tselem captured the moment when Israeli soldier Elor Azarya shot al-Sharif, who was lying wounded on the ground, in the head, killing him.

The footage of al-Sharif’s death was met with wide condemnation from rights groups and international bodies, with the UN demanding an investigation into the soldier's apparent "extrajudicial execution."

However, according to information collected by a B’Tselem field researcher, testimony from Tel Rumeida residents regarding the death of al-Qasrawi, who was killed before al-Sharif, “raise concerns that al-Qasrawi was also executed with a shot to the head, as he lay injured on the ground after having been hit by gunfire elsewhere in his body.”

According to two eyewitnesses, the B’Tselem statement added, “after both al-Sharif and al-Qasrawi were lying injured on the road, clearly posing no danger to anyone, and even before additional troops and the paramedics arrived on the scene, a soldier (or officer) went up to al-Qasrawi and shot him twice in the neck or head from several meters away.”

When contacted for comment, an Israeli army spokesperson dismissed the latest B'Tselem report.

"The claims made by the organization B'Tselem are not consistent with the findings of the operational investigation and contradict the information available to the IDF (Israeli army) concerning this event. The shooting of the assailant was carried out to remove the threat posed by the assailant when he attacked security forces with a knife," she told Ma'an.

However, footage taken by the eyewitnesses after the moment when al-Qasrawi, wearing a light gray sweater, was reportedly killed showed blood flowing from the young Palestinian’s head

Azarya’s trial opened in May, where he is facing charges of manslaughter, although the strong support he has received from the Israeli public has raised fears among Palestinians that the soldier will evade meaningful consequences for the killing.

In a recent report released by B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group stated that out of 739 complaints of human rights abuses committed against Palestinians which were submitted to Israeli military bodies, only 3 percent resulted in charges being brought against the soldiers.

New video footage surfaced on Wednesday showing an Israeli ambulance driver kicking a knife towards al-Sharif’s body, in what seemingly constituted tampering of the scene to bolster claims by Azarya that al-Sharif was a threat at the time of his death.

The eyewitnesses’ accounts of al-Qasrawi’s death would also cast further doubts on claims by the Israeli army that al-Sharif’s killing was a lone incident not reflective of the military’s regular code of conduct.

“There have been many reports since October of a policy permitting shoot-to-kill in incidents in which Palestinians harmed, or attempted to harm, Israeli security personnel or civilians, even when there is no clear and immediate mortal danger or if the danger can be overcome without resorting to a lethal outcome,” B’Tselem wrote.

“Nevertheless, to date, these cases are hardly ever investigated, and no civilian or member of the security forces has faced charged for implementing his policy. The case of Sgt. Azaria, whose trial is still underway, is the one exception,” the organization added.

“But what is far more grave is that this open-fire policy has the full backing of senior civil and military officials. Israeli law enforcement authorities, both military and civilian, prefer not to deal with these cases, instead, shutting their eyes to this reality, thereby granting it legitimacy and enabling it to carry on.”
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