IDF clears soldiers who shot dead Palestinian teen in 2016

Prosecutors find ‘failures,’ but no cause for criminal charges for troops who mistakenly identified car of teens returning from swimming trip as stone throwers and opened fire

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A section of Route 443. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)
A section of Route 443. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)

Military prosecutors on Monday announced they would not pursue criminal charges against soldiers who shot dead a Palestinian teenager and wounded several others in 2016, in what the army described as a case of mistaken identity.

On the night between June 20 and 21, 2016, Israeli troops opened fire at a car full of Palestinian teenagers as they were traveling on Route 443, a major West Bank highway. The soldiers had incorrectly identified the teens as a group of Palestinian youths who had earlier thrown cinder blocks at cars and spilled oil on the road, the army said.

Mohammad Badran, 15, was killed and four others were injured, including two of Badran’s brothers.

Three Israelis were injured when their car was pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails in the earlier attack, the IDF said at the time. Several other vehicles were also damaged.

“As the troops were operating in a clear operational event that was complicated and intense, the professional failures do not justify criminal proceedings, despite the tragic outcome,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The military said there were a number of “professional failings” in how the shooting was carried out, but said that the misidentification was “earnest and reasonable.”

The sole disciplinary measure was taken against the commander of the unit that opened fire, denying him entrance into the army’s company commanders course and effectively forcing him to leave the military.

“The commander of the unit misidentified the car… and the troops fired at the wheels of the vehicle. A short while after shooting, the mistake became known and medical treatment was given to the wounded,” the army said.

The incident occurred along the highway, near the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, west of Ramallah.

Palestinian media identified Badran as a resident of the village of Kafr Qaddum, in the northern West Bank east of Qalqilya.

The other Palestinian teenagers who were injured were identified as Badran’s brothers Amir, 16, and Hadi, 17, as well as Daoud Abu Hassan, 16, and Majd Badran, 16, a Qatari national who was visiting his family in the West Bank for the summer.

Badran and the other Palestinian teens in the car had been driving home from a nearby pool, where they had gone swimming after the Ramadan fast, when they were shot, the head of the local Palestinian council, Abd Qassem, told the Reuters news service in 2016.

At the time, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat condemned Israel’s “brutal attack,” referring to it as a “cold-blooded assassination.”

Shortly after the incident, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson defended the use of lethal force as necessary, in light of the regular attacks on Israeli cars in the West Bank.

“Unfortunately, the list of Israelis killed by stones thrown by Palestinians at roads is a long list and every injured Israeli is proof of the need for taking security measures,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said at the time.

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