Left-wing Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem claimed Monday that a second Palestinian assailant who attacked troops in Hebron in March was “executed” by an Israeli soldier, weeks after charges were brought against a sergeant for killing the attacker’s incapacitated accomplice.
The claim potentially adds another controversial aspect to the case of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who is on trial for manslaughter for killing Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif in the wake of the stabbing attack.
According to B’Tselem, a second soldier shot Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi in similar circumstances as he also lay injured on the ground after the stabbing attack.
The army on Monday rejected the claim.
On March 24, al-Sharif and al-Qasrawi attacked two Israeli soldiers with knives in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of the West Bank city, wounding one of them. The IDF said al-Qasrawi died from gunshots fired by a soldier during the attack, while al-Sharif was seriously injured.
Azaria arrived on the scene as part of a Kfir Brigade unit patrolling the area, and — nearly 15 minutes after the initial attack — was filmed by a B’Tselem field worker shooting al-Sharif in the head, killing him.
Azaria’s case has dominated headlines since March and divided the country. Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot both condemned the shooting, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have all expressed some degree of support for Azaria.
Liberman, who initially came out strongly in support of Azaria, has promised, as defense minister, not to interfere in the trial.
Local residents, however, now say that al-Qasrawi, the second assailant, was only wounded in the attack and after he was already incapacitated, another soldier “shot him in the head or neck twice from point-blank range.”
Two witnesses said that “they began following events after they heard gunshots from the street,” according to B’Tselem. “They said that after both al-Sharif and al-Qasrawi were lying injured on the road, clearly posing no danger to anyone, and even before additional troops and the paramedics arrived on the scene, a soldier (or officer) went up to al-Qasrawi and shot him twice in the neck or head from several meters away. Later on in this incident, both saw Azaria shooting al-Sharif in the head.”
The army, which is currently conducting a military tribunal against Azaria, rejected the latest claims by B’Tselem. The accusation, the army said, was “inconsistent with the findings of the operational investigation and conflict with the information the IDF has about this incident.”
“The shots fired at the terrorist were carried out in order to eliminate a threat while he was attacking the soldiers with a knife,” an IDF spokesman told The Times of Israel.
The Tel Rumeida neighborhood is under surveillance by security cameras, and the claim should be relatively easy to prove or disprove.
According to B’Tselem, the delay in releasing the new information was the result of the IDF’s 8-month closure on Tel Rumeida, which kept the organization’s investigators from interviewing witnesses.
“The military has recently lifted the strict travel restrictions imposed on Tel Rumeida, so for the first time since the incident, B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri was able to get into the neighborhood and collect testimonies from its residents,” the group said in a statement.
As the army removed those restrictions, the statement said, the B’Tselem employee could interview the two witnesses who are claiming al-Qasrawi was “executed.”
Jaffa Military Court last month indicted Azaria for manslaughter and inappropriate military conduct.
Azaria has pleaded not guilty to charges, with his attorneys telling the court their client suspected there were explosives on Sharif’s person and that he posed an immediate threat to soldiers at the scene.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.