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IDF: Enough evidence to charge Hebron soldier in killing

‘I wouldn’t have fired if I didn’t feel I was in imminent danger,’ soldier who shot wounded Palestinian stabber to death says in court, but prosecutors say he showed no signs of distress or concern

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)

IDF prosecutors argued in a military court hearing Tuesday in favor of jailing an IDF soldier filmed shooting an incapacitated Palestinian terrorist last month, pointing out that the soldier didn’t warn anybody of a possible explosive charge, and showed no signs of distress afterwards.

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

The soldier under investigation, whose name has not been released, was filmed shooting 21-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sharif through the head on March 24, minutes after Sharif and another assailant stabbed and moderately wounded a soldier in Tel Rumeida, an Israeli enclave of the West Bank city of Hebron. The two assailants were shot, with one was killed and Sharif wounded, by an army officer during the course of their attack.

The soldier, who shot and killed Sharif after he’d already been disabled, 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 army’s response.

He said in his defense in court on Tuesday “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.

Israeli soldiers cover the body of a Palestinian assailant who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as he lay wounded on the ground after injuring an Israeli soldier with a fellow Palestinian attacker in a stabbing assault in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)
Israeli soldiers cover the body of a Palestinian assailant who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as he lay wounded on the ground after injuring an Israeli soldier with a fellow Palestinian attacker in a stabbing assault in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)

The prosecution has sought to send him back to jail and said that the soldier was not cooperating with investigators, even though his lawyers initially said he had promised to reenact the shooting and confront the soldiers who testified against him, according to Ynet.

Prosecutors said they may file a manslaughter indictment against the soldier, who initially claimed he feared the stabber had a bomb, as soon as next week.

“A person who’s worried about a bomb, it would be expected that he would say so immediately after shooting,” chief military prosecutor Col. Sharon Zagagi Pinhas said. “Even if he was concerned, he acted against the guidelines he received concerning the operating procedures of a suspected bomb.”

One of the prosecutors noted that in a film of the incident the soldier can be seen immediately after discharging his weapon and “doesn’t look particularly stressed. He approaches two civilians at the scene, shakes their hands, and smiles as well.”

One of the men the soldier shook hands with is far right-wing activist Baruch Marzel.

“You can see that he isn’t pressured or in a tempest of emotions, despite the fact that he claims that at the time he was giving out high-fives, he was still wracked with emotions,” Cpt. Avishai Kaplan said.

Prosecutors also mentioned a conversation the soldier had with a paramedic who arrived at the scene. When she asked if he shot Sharif, the soldier replied that he didn’t remember, and when she pressed him, he admitted that he saw the Palestinian move and feared he had a knife.

“The bottom line of the autopsy findings is that the deadly shooting for the terrorist was the bullet in the head from the soldier” despite the fact that he had been previously wounded, Pinhas said.

The March 24 incident sparked a national controversy, with some politicians and others accusing the army of selling out the soldier by arresting him and putting him under investigation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and army brass have all defended the investigation.

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