Border cop suspected of firing sponge-tipped bullet at Palestinian ‘for fun’

Officer arrested over May incident at A’Zaim checkpoint in West Bank; troops said to brag in text messages about shooting, which was captured on video

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

General view of the A'Zaim checkpoint on March 11, 2008. (Daniel Dreifuss/Flash90)
General view of the A'Zaim checkpoint on March 11, 2008. (Daniel Dreifuss/Flash90)

The Police Internal Investigations Department on Monday arrested a Border Police officer suspected of firing a sponge-tipped bullet into the back of a Palestinian man “for fun” in the West Bank in May.

The policewoman, aged about 20, was said to have opened fire at the A’Zaim checkpoint without any operational reason, causing the man significant injury.

The officer, who hasn’t been named, was arrested alongside four other Border Police officers suspected of being with her at the time of the shooting.

The incident was reportedly recorded on the phone of one of the unit’s officers. In it, troops can be heard telling a Palestinian — in Arabic — to walk away, and several seconds later he is shot in the back with the sponge pellet.

The Police Internal Investigations Department, which is part of the Justice Ministry, said it doesn’t know the identity of the Palestinian, and that efforts were underway to locate him.

Illustrative: Border Police officers at a West Bank checkpoint, January 2017 (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The department was examining text messages in which officers in the policewoman’s unit appeared to brag about the incident, with the policewoman admitting in some of the messages to have fired the bullet, Haaretz reported.

She is also suspected of obstructing the investigation by asking her friends not to talk about the incident.

A judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday extended the officer’s remand by three days, and released the other suspects under several restrictions.

Itzik Cohen, the officer’s lawyer, said that “the policewoman denies she is the policewoman who fired the sponge-tipped bullet, she doesn’t appear in the footage held by the Department and insists that her version is the truth.”

Border Police responded by saying that “if the serious suspicions of actions that go against our values are confirmed, there will be action taken against [the officers] to end their military service in Border Police.”

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