Israel expressed regret on Tuesday over the fatal shooting of a Jordanian-Palestinian judge by IDF troops at a West Bank border crossing, a statement from the premier’s office said.
“Israel regrets the death of Judge Raed Zeiter yesterday at the King Hussein (Allenby) bridge and expresses its sympathies to the people and government of Jordan,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.
Zeiter tried to snatch a weapon and “strangle” a soldier, a preliminary army investigation showed on Tuesday.
The incident occurred Monday when troops opened fire at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, killing Zeiter, a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship, claiming he was a “terrorist” who had tried to snatch a weapon from a soldier.
But Palestinian witnesses said Zeiter was shot following an argument over a cigarette in an incident that prompted a furious response from the Palestinian Authority and Amman.
The military said it had conducted a “comprehensive investigation,” which included extensive questioning of witnesses. The army said the cameras on site had malfunctioned and the incident was not recorded.
They said Zeiter, 38, had first charged at the soldiers with a metal pole, prompting them to fire at his legs.
When he began strangling a soldier they shot him dead.
“The preliminary conclusion of the investigation indicates that the terrorist attacked the soldier. He charged at the soldiers with a metal pole shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest), and then attempted to seize the soldier’s weapon prompting the soldiers to respond by firing toward his lower extremities,” it said.
“The suspect then began to strangle a soldier and the force resorted to using live fire once again.”
It said the investigation, which is being handled by the military police, was ongoing.
Jordan demanded the soldiers involved be punished.
“After the investigations, tough measures should be taken against those responsible for the shooting,” information minister and government spokesman Mohammad Momani told state-run television.
“We are talking about an unarmed Jordanian civilian being killed on the other side of the border. All Jordanians are angry and have the right to know what happened,” he said.
Jordan’s principal Islamist opposition, which has called repeatedly for severing diplomatic ties with Israel, condemned Israeli “brutality.”
“The Israeli action proves that the Zionist enemy does not respect any agreements,” Murad Adaileh of the Islamic Action Front said in a statement, referring to a 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.
“The aggression against the Jordanian citizen shows the brutality of the Zionist occupation,” he said, urging the government to deal with the incident “in a way that would put an end to (Israel’s) carelessness.”
A Jordanian security official confirmed to AFP that Zeiter worked as a judge in Amman. Jordan’s justice ministry said he worked at a magistrates court in the capital.
Hundreds of Palestinians turned out for Zeiter’s funeral on Tuesday, accompanying the body, which was wrapped in a Palestinian flag, to its burial place in his family’s northern West Bank hometown of Nablus.
“They killed my only son in cold blood,” said Zeiter’s father, Ala, who had traveled from Amman.
“My son was unarmed; he wouldn’t even know how to use a weapon,” Ala Zeiter said, adding that a witness claimed to have seen soldiers insulting him and throwing him to the ground before shooting him.
Several hours after Zeiter’s death, troops shot dead a 20-year-old Palestinian near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The army said he had been throwing stones at soldiers.