An initial investigation into the shooting of an unarmed Palestinian man last Friday has found that the bullet was not aimed at the man’s neck, but was fired unintentionally after another Palestinian grabbed the soldier’s gun, the military said Thursday.
The shooting left the 24-year-old man, Haroun Abu Aram, paralyzed from the neck down, according to Palestinian health officials.
The military’s account of the incident is contrary to that of Palestinian eyewitnesses, who claimed the soldier fired deliberately at Abu Aram. Palestinian eyewitnesses confirmed to The Times of Israel that they had not been contacted as part of the army’s initial investigation.
Palestinian witnesses also attested that Israeli soldiers shot at a car which arrived to take the paralyzed Palestinian to a local clinic, puncturing its tires. The military did not discuss that shooting in its response, nor did an IDF spokesperson respond to an immediate request for comment.
An initial “check” by the Israeli Military Police was opened into the incident. “This will include taking testimonies from Palestinians and collecting medical documents,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
Such probes generally do not result in indictments against soldiers and even more rarely result in significant punishments if they are found guilty.
The incident took place in the South Hebron Hills as troops arrived to confiscate an electric generator and other equipment from the unrecognized West Bank village of al-Rakeez that was allegedly used in illegal construction.
The military said the lives of the soldiers involved had been in danger when the shooting took place. Video from the scene circulating on social media shows the buildup to the fateful shooting, but the shooting itself.
The IDF said the initial probe of the incident, which was conducted by the Central Command, determined that a riot broke out as the soldiers attempted to seize the materials. Abu Aram, who witnesses said was unarmed, was engaged in a tug-of-war over the electric generator with the troops seeking to confiscate it.
“After the Palestinians refused to leave the area and continued to attack the soldiers, the commander of the unit began an arrest protocol, which included firing into the air. While he was shooting, two Palestinian violently attacked the unit commander: one Palestinian forcefully grabbed the commander, and another Palestinian wildly grabbed his gun. Because of this, an unaimed shot was fired, which hit a different Palestinian, who was one of the rioters,” the military said.
Palestinian eyewitnesses have denied this description of the events, saying the shot was not fired randomly, but intentionally. They have also contested the military’s description of the event as a “riot” — a video from the scene shows a scuffle between four unarmed Palestinians and the soldiers.
“The soldier was, at the absolute most, two meters away from the young man. He raised his rifle and fired. It was deliberate,” al-Rakeez resident Murad Hamamdeh, who attested that he was at the scene, told The Times of Israel earlier this week.
The left-wing B’Tselem human rights group accused the military of lying about the incident to justify the shooting of Abu Aram.
“Fifty-three years of the occupation have given the IDF practice in justifying the killing and wounding of Palestinians, if they were holding a generator, playing in their yard or were shot in the back. Fifty-three years of occupation have trained the Israeli media to publish any lie that the IDF spokesperson pulls out,” the group said.
Abu Aram was taken to a hospital in Yatta, a city in the South Hebron hills. When his condition deteriorated, he was taken to a hospital in Hebron.
According to witnesses from the scene, a soldier fired at the car that arrived to take Abu Aram to a nearby hospital, puncturing one of the tires.
“My son is hanging right now between life and death,” Abu Aram’s father Rasmi told the Kan Public Broadcaster on Saturday night.
According to neighbors and other eyewitnesses, the scuffle with Abu Aram did not take place during a larger confrontation between some 150 Palestinians and troops, as the army initially alleged on Friday, but rather while he tried to help a friend whose family was roughed up by the soldiers, with only a few people around.
“Haroun Abu Aram, my neighbor, is from a poor family, barely holding on. They’re simple people. He saw his neighbor being aggressed upon and showed up to help,” said al-Rakeez resident Ashraf al-Amur.
The European Union condemned Abu Aram’s shooting, calling it an “excessive and disproportionate use of force.”
???? *#عاجل: شهود عيان: الشاب الذي أصيب قبل قليل هو هارون رسمي أبو عرام (24 عامًا) وأطلق جنود الاحتلال الرصاص على رأسه بشكلٍ مباشر من مسافة صفر عندما حاول منعهم من الاستيلاء على مولد كهربائي يستخدمه هو وأسرته.* pic.twitter.com/XBjAhlY3Mi
— Mahmoud Muhanna (@Mahmoud07733748) January 1, 2021