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Court extends detention of soldier accused in Hebron shooting

IDF serviceman shot dead incapacitated Palestinian assailant; remains confined to military base

An Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian assailant in Hebron sits in a military court hearing in Tel Aviv, April 5, 2016. (Flash90)
An Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian assailant in Hebron sits in a military court hearing in Tel Aviv, April 5, 2016. (Flash90)

The Jaffa military court on Thursday extended by eight days the detention of an IDF soldier who shot dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant after the latter carried out a stabbing attack in the West Bank city of Hebron last month.

The court determined that the soldier will remain detained at the IDF base where he has been held since last week.

The soldier under investigation, whose name has been withheld by a gag order, was filmed shooting 21-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the head on March 24, minutes after Sharif and another assailant stabbed and moderately wounded a soldier in Tel Rumeida, an Israeli enclave of Hebron. The two assailants were shot — one was killed, while Sharif was wounded — by an army officer during the course of their attack.

The soldier, who shot and killed Sharif some 10 minutes after he’d already been incapacitated and disarmed, was arrested by military police, but since Friday has been out of jail and held in supervised detention on an army base, amid a roiling political scandal over his actions and the military’s response.

Palestinian doctor, Rayan al-Ali, who carried out the autopsy on 21-year-old Palestinian Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, pictured on poster, speaks during a press conference in the West Bank town of Hebron on April 4, 2016. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)
Palestinian doctor, Rayan al-Ali, who carried out the autopsy on 21-year-old Palestinian Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, pictured on poster, speaks during a press conference in the West Bank town of Hebron on April 4, 2016. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)

An autopsy performed in Israel earlier this week found that al-Sharif was killed by the soldier’s bullet and was only wounded when he was initially shot, according to a Palestinian doctor who attended the examination.

“After a full autopsy, the fatal wound was in the head,” the Palestinian doctor, Rayan al-Ali, told AFP.

“There were several gunshot wounds. All those wounds were in the muscles, the lower limbs, and there was a wound in his right lung, but it was not fatal and did not lead to his death.”

Israel has not yet released the results of the autopsy.

Prosecutor Adoram Reigler told the court Tuesday that the military had gathered enough evidence to move forward with a manslaughter charge against the soldier, the Ynet news website said.

Right-wing politicians and the soldier’s family have claimed he was being “lynched” by the media, and demonstrators have called for him to be released.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon leveled harsh criticism Tuesday at the soldier’s supporters.

The defense minister said he was “very worried about what has happened since the incident. Those who back such a soldier do not support the law or our values.”

Residents of Beit Shemesh attend a March 28, 2016, rally in solidarity with a soldier who shot a Palestinian assailant in Hebron the week before. (Yaacov Lederman/Flash90)
Residents of Beit Shemesh attend a March 28, 2016, rally in solidarity with a soldier who shot a Palestinian assailant in Hebron the week before. (Yaacov Lederman/Flash90)

According to the army, the soldier said before shooting the stabber that he should be killed, and told his commanders afterward that the assailant had deserved to die.

But the soldier, who maintains that he shot al-Sharif because he feared there were explosives on his person, previously told the court: “I saw him move his hand and head. I didn’t shoot for no reason. I wouldn’t have fired if I didn’t feel I was in imminent danger.”

“If there had been an explosive belt, I’d be in the cemetery now, not in the court,” he said. “These Military Police investigators are in an office, not in the field where they can be shot at.”

“I was emotional, and in a split second I decided to shoot,” Ynet quoted the soldier saying Tuesday.

The prosecution maintained that there was no evidence to support the soldier’s claim, pointing out that he didn’t warn anyone of a possible explosive charge, and showed no signs of distress afterwards. But in his decision to relegate the soldier to his base rather than send him to jail, the judge said he couldn’t rule out the soldier’s account.

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