Footage showing two Palestinians gunned down outside the village of Beitunia in the West Bank last Thursday may well have been doctored, a senior defense official said Wednesday.
“I saw the video – the chances of fabrication are high,” the official said.
He said he was being cautious, and that he would wait for an IDF investigation into the killings to come to a full conclusion, but that the fact that the two were seen in the footage walking alone, seemingly minding their own business, and the manner in which they seemed to fall – onto their outstretched palms – cast doubt on the authenticity of the footage.
“We all learned from the fabrication of Netzarim Junction,” he said, referencing the Muhammad al-Dura affair in September 2000, which he termed “Pallywood.” A report aired on the channel France 2 claiming to show the killing of Al-Dura, 10, by IDF soldiers was a rallying cry for the Second Intifada, but Israeli officials have disputed the report, some going so far as to say it was staged and that al-Dura was still alive.
The two Palestinian youths, aged 16 and 17, were killed during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops outside Ramallah during a Nakba Day protest.
The video, posted by Defense for Children International’s Palestine division, shows two unarmed men walking near a gas station and then being shot about an hour apart.
The senior defense official said Thursday that the Border Police involved in the incident submitted that they had used riot-dispersal measures alone and not, as Palestinian officials have claimed, live fire. “We said, give us the bodies and the bullets in order to conclude the investigation,” he said, “but they did not pass either on.”
The IDF’s investigation into the deaths is working its way up the chain of command. A divisional investigation has been concluded, the official said, and the initial findings will be submitted to the defense minister on Thursday. In the coming days, he added, the investigation should be concluded.
Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem released the findings of it own investigation Wednesday, supporting claims that the two youths were killed by live fire.
“The investigation, compounded by security camera footage of the incident, indicated that the circumstances of the incident in no way justified use of live fire,” the group said in press release. “These findings raise grave suspicion that the killing was willful.”
B’Tselem said that medical experts found that the wounds on the bodies of the two slain Palestinians and two others injured in the incident were consistent with entry and exit wounds caused by live fire. In addition, B’Tselem said, eyewitnesses heard live gunfire.
The father of one of the slain Palestinians on Wednesday showed a Channel 2 reporter a backpack he said was worn by his son at the time of the shooting. He also produced a slug, which he said had been recovered from the backpack after exiting his son’s body. He said he was willing to exhume the corpse if it would aid the investigation.
The video named the two fatalities as Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh, 16.