Israel defends troops who repeatedly shot fallen Palestinian stabber

Al-Jazeera footage shows policemen riddling Jerusalem assailant with bullets; Erdan: It’s impossible to second-guess their actions

Jewish Zaka volunteers remove the body of a Palestinian man who was shot dead after stabbing three people outside Jerusalem's Damascus Gate on February 19, 2016 (AFP / THOMAS COEX)
Jewish Zaka volunteers remove the body of a Palestinian man who was shot dead after stabbing three people outside Jerusalem's Damascus Gate on February 19, 2016 (AFP / THOMAS COEX)

Israeli officials on Saturday rejected criticism of security forces’ repeated shooting of a Palestinian assailant at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, after footage showed the man being riddled with bullets while already lying on the ground.

The footage aired by Al-Jazeera on Friday showed 20-year-old Muhammad Abu Halaf, who had stabbed three people before he was killed, being sprayed with bullets as he lay, apparently lifeless, near the Old City gate.

The Al-Jazeera crew at the scene said Border Police officers “fired almost 50 bullets” at Abu Halaf after he fell to the ground. Arabic press has called the incident an extrajudicial execution.

The video of the incident is provided below (WARNING: graphic content).

Asked about the incident on Saturday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is in charge of Israeli police, backed their actions.

“It’s impossible to judge the situation the combatants are in,” he told Channel 10 news. “Every day there are attempts to stab them and the civilians around them. There have been incidents in which (security forces) fired, the terrorist was not killed, and then he managed to stab again.”

Security officials also told Channel 10 that troops sometimes fire at an assailant when he is down out of fear that he may be carrying explosives.

Also Saturday, police said they would close a probe into a policeman who shot and killed a Palestinian teenager last November after she carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem with a pair of scissors, Channel 2 reported Saturday.

Officials said they had decided to close the case as there was no evidence that the officer had criminal intent in his actions.

The investigation was opened following a decision by then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein, on the advice of the state prosecutor, amid claims that the officer continued to shoot the teen after she no longer posed any danger.

Proportionate use of deadly force has been in the headlines this week after IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot came under criticism for saying that the army’s rules of engagement do not include soldiers “emptying a full magazine at a girl holding scissors.”

Rabbis and right-wing lawmakers took Eisenkot to task for his comments.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made clear Thursday that he firmly supports Eisenkot, telling students in the north that Israel could not compromise on its core values, even in the face of persistent Palestinian unrest.

Meanwhile opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Saturday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to defend Eisenkot, saying “the prime minister (should) stand up and support its commander, and this he did not do. Netanyahu let ministers and MKs in his coalition degrade the man in charge of our security, and this is unacceptable.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also condemned the onslaught against Eisenkot. “In the last 24 hours I’ve seen incessant attacks on the IDF chief by politicians,” he said at an event in Rehovot.

“We need to give full backing to the security forces, their work and the rules of engagement. An attack on the IDF chief means an attack on the IDF.”

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