Netanyahu, Ya’alon slam Hebron shooting as IDF vows probe
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Netanyahu, Ya’alon slam Hebron shooting as IDF vows probe

PM, defense minister say incident in which soldier shot disarmed assailant in head goes against Israeli 'values'; PA condemns 'war crime'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday joined the Israel Defense Forces in condemning an incident in which a soldier shot a disarmed Palestinian assailant in the head in Hebron, saying that it did not reflect the values if the Jewish state and its military.

“What happened in Hebron doesn’t represent the values of the IDF,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “The IDF expects its soldiers to behave level-headedly and in accordance with the rules of engagement.”

The IDF called the incident “very grave” and vowed that it would be investigated thoroughly.

“The soldier who shot the terrorist has been arrested,” IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz said hours after a video of the inicdent went viral.

“We will have to check how this happened and we will investigate.” Almoz added that everyone who was present at the scene would be questioned.

“The chief of staff [Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot] views the incident with severity and has ordered a full probe,” he added. “This is not the IDF, these are not the values of the IDF and these are not the values of the Jewish people.”

Moti Almoz (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)
Moti Almoz (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Ya’alon also said the case would be handled “with all due severity,” saying the soldier’s apparent actions were “in utter breach of IDF values and of our code of ethics in combat.”

He added: “Even when the blood boils, we must not allow such loss of reason and such loss of control.”

The soldier in question was arrested after the video appeared to show him shooting the incapacitated assailant who had stabbed an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city. The Palestinian was one of two who participated in the attack near the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, a tiny enclave of Jewish homes in the predominantly Palestinian city of Hebron.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at a press conference in Jerusalem, November 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon at a press conference in Jerusalem, November 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hamas later said that the two were affiliated to the Gaza-based terror group, the Hebrew-language Walla website reported.

The shooting would appear to be part of a controversial practice known as “confirming the kill,” in which soldiers make sure assailants are dead by shooting them in the head. The army has disavowed the practice in the past.

As news of the shooting spread, lawmakers from the center-left reacted harshly, warning of the dangers of moral decline and loose firing regulations in the military.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said the shooting had “dire markings” and expressed his trust in the military’s commitment to investigate the soldier and bring him to justice.

Isaac Herzog leads a Zionist Union party meeting in the Knesset on February 22, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Isaac Herzog leads a Zionist Union party meeting in the Knesset on February 22, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“The murderous loathsomeness of the terrorists is no reason for the IDF to lose its morals,” MK Ofer Shelah of the centrist Yesh Atid party said. He commended “the army’s swift action in opening an investigation and clarifying that the act was against its values.

“Morality is the source of the army’s strength, and forsaking it even slightly due to the challenges raised by terrorism would hurt national security,” he said.

Meretz leader Zehava Galon warned of “a black day” for the country’s moral fortitude “that should greatly worry the heads of the security establishment and the government.”

She blamed Israeli leaders for sanctioning the shooting of assailants who no longer posed a threat, and a toxic public attitude “that is trickling down to all parts of our society and corrupting it.

Zahava Galon during a Knesset meeting (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Zahava Galon during a Knesset meeting (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Wild incitement and encouragement to violence by the government reaches the soldiers in the field, sending them a dangerous, immoral message.”

MK Dov Khenin of the Joint (Arab) List said the images “should shock any person with a conscience, and all those who have not lost their moral inhibitions in the terrible reality of the past few months.” Khenin too blamed Israeli leaders whose statements he said “expressed support for the killing of suspects that no longer pose a danger.”

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, accused Israel of committing “a war crime,” with Health Minister Jawad Awwad saying both Palestinian assailants had been “executed” by soldiers.

The soldier, he said, “opened fire directly at the head of the young Palestinian Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, who was lying wounded on the ground. While [the camera] did not see how the second man died, Ramzi Qasrawi Tamimi, who was 21-years-old, was likely executed in the same way.”

Awwad claimed the video was “irrefutable evidence that Israeli soldiers commit field executions.”

In the video, which was first released on Palestinian social media, the disarmed Palestinian can be seen lying on the ground and barely moving.

The soldier then appears to speak with another soldier, before cocking his weapon and firing at the unarmed Palestinian assailant from a few meters away, hitting him in the head.

An unnamed witness told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an that he saw that the soldier walked up and “opened fire at him from point blank range.” The witness also indicated the assailant may have still been alive before being shot.

It was not immediately clear which of the two appears in the video.

The soldier is partially blocked from view by other members of his unit when the shot is fired. However, the impact of the bullet can be seen in the video. Afterward, the Palestinian can be seen bleeding from the head.

“This appears to be a serious violation of the IDF code and of what is expected of IDF soldiers and officers,” the army said in response to the video.

The Military Police will begin looking into the incident and the soldier has “been suspended from his position until the end of the investigation,” the IDF said. The soldier was also detained for further questioning.

The shooting would appear to be part of a controversial practice known as “confirming the kill,” in which soldiers make sure assailants are dead by shooting them in the head. The army has disavowed the practice in the past.

Israel has come under criticism from Europe and the United States for allegedly using excessive force in stopping Palestinian terrorists. The Palestinian Authority and some countries, notably Sweden, have accused Israel of extra-judicial executions — something Israel has vigorously denied.

Speaking to high school students in the coastal city of Bat Yam recently, Eisenkot said that a soldier must shoot to kill perpetrators of terrorist attacks only if there is an immediate threat to human life.

His statements were attacked by rabbis and lawmakers on the right, who said they exhibited weakness.

The incident in Hebron marked the first attack since Saturday, breaking a rare calm spell amid a wave of violence in the West Bank and Israel that has raged for nearly half a year.

In the nearly six months of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October, 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed. About 190 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

Israel closed off the West Bank from Wednesday to Saturday as a preventative measure against attacks during the Jewish holiday of Purim, the IDF announced on Tuesday.

The closure began at 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday and is expected to end at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, the army said.

Entering and exiting the West Bank will be forbidden for Palestinians during those three days, with the exception of “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases,” according to an IDF statement.

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