A picture of the female border police officer who on Wednesday shot and killed a Palestinian youth after he threatened her subordinate with what later turned out to have been a fake handgun in the West Bank city of Hebron is being circulated by pro-Palestinian groups, who are demanding to “bring the killer to trial before international courts.”
In Israel, the identity of the woman is protected by a gag order, and pictures of her published in the Hebrew-language media have all been pixelated.
After the event, the officer countered questions about her conduct and said that she had acted correctly and in full compliance with the army’s rules of engagement.
Anyone in her position, she said, “would have done the same.”
The officer, a 20-year-old from Tel Aviv, recounted the events in interviews with Israeli media late Tuesday night, saying that she and two border police soldiers under her command were manning a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs when the young Palestinian approached them.
“Following the standard procedure, the soldier who was with me asked him for an ID,” she said. “The Palestinian handed him his documents and I entered the room to run a background check.”
While inside, she continued, she looked out and saw that the Palestinian had charged the soldier and drawn what appeared to be a pistol.
“With one hand,” she related, “he grabbed the soldier’s neck and pressed against him, and with the other he put the pistol to the soldier’s temple. In that situation, the soldier couldn’t break free or react.”
The female officer, who was only a few meters away, cocked her weapon.
“I was looking for an angle from which to fire without hurting the soldier,” she said, and it was only after she ascertained that his life was in danger that she pulled the trigger.
“After the first shot, he continued to hold the pistol to the soldier’s temple, so I fired two more bullets,” she said, at which point the Palestinian fell to the ground, and she quickly kicked the gun away.
“It was my first time in a combat situation,” she said, explaining that she had reacted “exactly like I was taught.”
With a gun being held to the soldier’s head, there was no way she could fire a warning shot, the officer said. “My subordinate’s life was in immediate danger,” and it was important to fire without hitting him, she said.
She rebutted the notion of her being a hero, saying: “Any soldier in my position would have done the same.”
Only after the incident was over, and the Palestinian was dead, did the army realize that the gun had been a counterfeit. It is still unclear what the youth’s motives were in confronting the police. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said an investigation had been launched into the incident.
Palestinians subsequently rioted in various locations in the city, and IDF troops attempted to quell the protests. There were no reports of injuries or arrests. Violent clashes resumed on Thursday morning, ahead of the funeral of the Palestinian youth, which was slated to take place at 11:30 a.m.
The incident comes amid public debate regarding the army’s rules of engagement. In two separate incidents reported this week, one in the West Bank town of Kfar Qadum and the other in Hebron – where Palestinian police were involved — IDF troops were filmed retreating in the face of heavy stone-throwing from rioters. In response, some soldiers said that the presence of media “tied their hands” and prevented them from defending themselves.
Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.