IDF colonel cleared in shooting death of rock thrower

Army finds that brigade commander did not intend to kill Palestinian assailant, but only to fire at his legs

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

Col. Yisrael Shomer, who was cleared on April 10, 2016 in the shooting death of a Palestinian teenager the previous summer. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Col. Yisrael Shomer, who was cleared on April 10, 2016 in the shooting death of a Palestinian teenager the previous summer. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

An Israeli colonel was Sunday cleared of all charges by the IDF prosecutor’s office in the shooting death of a Palestinian teenager last summer.

Muhammad Ali al-Kasbeh hurled a large rock at Col. Yisrael Shomer’s vehicle at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah on the night of July 3, 2015. The stone “smashed the windshield and entered the vehicle,” according to the IDF.

Shomer, commander of the Binyamin Brigade in the West Bank, got out of the vehicle and shot at the fleeing 17-year-old assailant, killing him.

Video from the incident released by the B’Tselem human rights organization stirred controversy at the time, as some questioned why Shomer had opened fire at the Palestinian who appeared to no longer present an immediate threat to the soldiers.

The Military Police opened an investigation into the incident to determine if Shomer had acted appropriately in the situation.

According to the IDF, Shomer had not intended to kill al-Kasbeh, and meant only to hit him in the legs in order to stop him, something that is permitted under army protocol.

The IDF chief prosecutor’s office found that Shomer had acted in accordance with the army’s rules of engagement, though it did fault the colonel for a “professional error in the way he discharged his weapon.”

“The IDF chief prosecutor found that the weapons discharge, under the framework of the arrest protocol, was justified from the circumstances of the incident,” the army said in a statement.

Shomer missed the suspect’s legs and hit him instead in the back because he “fired his weapon while in motion, and not in a static position,” the army said.

In light of that evidence, the prosecutor determined that the colonel’s actions were not criminal and did not merit full legal proceedings, according to the army’s statement.

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