Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Israeli troops who allegedly shot dead two Palestinian teenagers during Nakba Day protests in the West Bank last Thursday acted “as appropriate” given that “they were in a situation where their lives were in danger.”
A senior Palestinian official earlier Tuesday accused Israel of the “deliberate execution” of the two Palestinians, after an NGO released video footage which it said showed that the two were killed when unarmed and posing no threat.
Ya’alon said the troops were facing violent protests, and had petrol bombs thrown at them. He said that he had not yet viewed the footage, “but I’ve seen lots of films that were edited [to distort what had happened]. This film I’ve not yet seen, but I know the system.”
Palestinian officials have said since Thursday that the two Palestinian teenagers were killed by live fire. The IDF’s spokesman Peter Lerner told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that IDF forces used “only riot control techniques” to contain “a violent riot” that day. The IDF has been investigating the incident since Thursday, and has also opened a military police investigation in line with standard procedures, he said.
“In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the deliberate execution of two Palestinian teenagers who were fatally shot with live ammunition outside Ofer prison last week,” the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement. “Both boys were unarmed and posed no direct or immediate threat… Israel’s use of excessive and indiscriminate violence and live ammunition at nonviolent Palestinian demonstrations constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law,” she said.
The IDF said at the time that the border police used “anti-riot means and rubber bullets” against a violent demonstration by about 150 Palestinians.
Early on Tuesday, Defense for Children International Palestine released what it said was CCTV footage showing the deaths of Musaab Nuwarah, 20, and Mohammed Udeh, 17, during Thursday’s demonstration near Ofer prison marking the 66th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba — or “catastrophe” — of the Jewish state’s creation.
Israeli Channel 2’s military correspondent Roni Daniel suggested that the film may have been staged and faked. Daniel noted that the first alleged victim put out his hands to break his fall, which did not appear consistent with being shot. Daniel further noted that the two alleged fatalities, ostensibly filmed an hour apart, appeared to have taken place in almost exactly the same place, with an immediate convergence on the scene of a similar group of people. His queries were not about whether two Palestinians had been shot that day, Daniel said, but rather about whether the NGO footage being disseminated indeed actually showed such shootings or was fabricated.
“That film was edited and does not reflect the reality of the day in question, the violence,” Major Arye Shalicar, an Israeli army spokesman, told AFP. The border police contingent was under the army’s command at the time of the incident. “As part of our inquiry we have investigated whether there was live fire and we have not found that there was live fire,” he said. “We are continuing with our investigation.”
An Israeli military source told The Times of Israel that the CCTV footage had been edited down from hours of violent protests to two minutes of footage that did not convey the violence that took place.
Amnesty International denounced the Israeli army’s “excessive” use of force in the Ofer incident. “The Israeli army and border police used excessive, including lethal, force in response to rock-throwing protesters who could not have posed a threat to the lives of the soldiers and policemen in or near the fortified military camp,” the rights watchdog said last week.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said it had obtained medical opinions regarding the entry and exit wounds found in the bodies of the two dead Palestinians and two other injured protesters “which are completely consistent with injuries caused by live fire and could not have been caused by rubber-coated metal bullets – especially not when fired at a relatively long range, as was the case here.” It said it would transfer all the material at its disposal to the Military Police Investigations Unit.