The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said a Palestinian man shot dead outside Bethlehem overnight was apparently throwing rocks at passing vehicles, but acknowledged the incident could have been misinterpreted by troops stationed outside the West Bank city.
In a statement, the IDF said it was conducting its own investigation into the death of 26-year-old Ahmed Manasra, and concluded in its initial assessment that he was hurling stones at passing vehicles. The army said that soldiers guarding a nearby checkpoint opened fire when attempting to arrest him.
The army said Lt. Col David Shapira and Brig. Gen. Eran Niv conducted the preliminary investigation at the scene of the shooting, and was also “considering the possibility the rock-throwing was the result of an internal dispute between Palestinians.”
But the Bethlehem governor said Manasra was unarmed, and that Israeli soldiers fatally shot him while he was trying to aid another man injured by the gunfire.
Kamel Hmeid said Israeli troops in the adjacent village of al-Khader fired at a car and wounded the driver late on Wednesday night. He said Manasra was in the car behind and got out of his vehicle to help the wounded driver, who was shot in the abdomen. As Manasra was returning to his car, the Israeli soldiers shot and killed him, he said.
“This is a summary execution and Israel bears the full responsibility for this crime,” Hmeid said.
Wabeb Manasra, a cousin of the slain Palestinian, confirmed the governor’s account. He said they were trying to help the wounded man and that his cousin was going to drive his wife and children away when he was gunned down.
“There were no clashes, no stone throwing, nothing at all,” he said. “I don’t know why they shot him.”
The incident came amid heightened tensions following a deadly terror attack on Sunday in which a Palestinian shot dead a rabbi and an Israeli soldier in the northern West Bank.
The assailant, 18-year-old Omar Abu Laila, was killed in a shootout with Israeli forces Tuesday.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli troops killed two Palestinians who the army said threw explosive devices at soldiers securing the entry of Jewish worshipers to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.