An IDF soldier from a communications unit who accompanied Border Police at a Nakba Day rally on May 15 at which two Palestinian teenagers were killed, has been suspended from his unit for firing rubber bullets at protesters that day against orders.
The IDF spokesperson’s office stressed Wednesday that there was no evidence directly linking the soldier’s actions to the deaths of Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh, 16. However, the soldier’s unauthorized shots remain under investigation, and a gag order has been imposed on further details of the case.
The Nakba Day incident has been the subject of an IDF investigation, after footage from the demonstration emerged purportedly showing the two Palestinians’ deaths after Israeli troops allegedly fired at them without provocation. Israel has insisted that soldiers only utilized rubber bullets and other non-lethal munitions to disperse rioters that day, and did not use live fire.
Seven Border Police were at the scene, along with the soldier, who was spotted in CNN footage of the event aiming his rifle at the Palestinians, as one Border Policeman shot in the direction of the rally. A few moments later, a policeman was seen snatching the soldier’s gun away from him. An adapter used for rubber bullets could be seen mounted on the soldier’s firearm.
During the course of the investigation, the soldier testified that he did not hear live fire during the event, but did not own up to his involvement, Haaretz reported. The probe later showed that the soldier had also fired his weapon.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on May 20 that her office was seeking additional information from the Israeli government in order to determine whether the soldiers’ use of force was justified.
“We look to the government of Israel to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to determine the facts surrounding this incident, including whether or not the use of force was proportional to the threat posed by the demonstrators,” Psaki said, adding, “we are encouraging the government of Israel to conduct their own investigation.”
Israeli military officials responded that they had been investigating the incident since May 16, and had also opened a military police investigation. Preliminary findings indicated no live fire had been used by IDF troops, they said.
Palestinian witnesses at the scene said the two had been killed by live ammunition.