The mother of the IDF soldier facing manslaughter charges for shooting dead a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last month issued a public plea Thursday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have her son released.
Earlier, the military prosecution lodged a declaration with the court that it will file the manslaughter indictment against the soldier early next week. The IDF’s chief prosecutor was also seeking to have the soldier remanded in jail until Monday, while his attorney argued the case could proceed without the suspect in custody.
In a letter to the prime minister cited by Channel 2 television, the soldier’s mother said: “I ask you now, as the mother of a fighter, please do everything you can to make sure my son comes home.”
“Enough is enough, I write to you with hands shaking, with a lump in my throat, [as] my family is falling apart. Every moment without my son, we are growing weaker,” she wrote.
The soldier under investigation, whose name has been withheld by a gag order, was filmed shooting 21-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the head on March 24, minutes after Sharif and another assailant stabbed and moderately wounded a soldier in Tel Rumeida, an Israeli enclave of Hebron. The two assailants were shot — one was killed, while Sharif was wounded — by an army officer during the course of their attack.
The soldier and his family maintain that he believed al-Sharif might have had a suicide vest on and that he shot him out fear he might activate the bomb. Military prosecutors have reportedly said the soldier’s behavior at the scene did not indicate any such concern.
“Is it appropriate that a fighter who neutralized a terrorist at the site of an attack be detained almost a whole month?” she asked, expressing her outrage over the manslaughter charge.
“Manslaughter, for God’s sake, for neutralizing a terrorist! Is it conceivable that a dedicated, moral, acclaimed fighter be accused of manslaughter, under your watch, for shooting a terrorist?” she asked in her letter to Netanyahu.
The soldier, who shot and killed Sharif some 10 minutes after he’d already been incapacitated and disarmed, was arrested by military police, but has been out of jail in supervised detention on an army base, amid a roiling political scandal over his actions and the military’s response.
Prosecutor Adoram Reigler told the court last week that the military had gathered enough evidence to move forward with the manslaughter charge against the soldier, the Ynet news website said.
Right-wing politicians and the soldier’s family have claimed he was “lynched” by the media, and demonstrators have called for him to be released.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has been criticized for the decision to investigate the incident, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s support of the military leader and condemnation of the act brought him into the row as well.
“This is a case of a soldier gone bad, not a hero,” Ya’alon told the Knesset on March 28, as he slammed “all the fervor and false information and manipulation and attacks on the IDF chief.”
Ya’alon has subsequently reiterated his critique of those who back the soldier, declaring last week that the IDF top brass and not “gang leaders” would determine how the IDF operates.
The defense minister has come under an intense backlash for his comments and criticism against him took an extreme turn earlier this month, when doctored images of Ya’alon in the cross-hairs began circulating on a WhatsApp group for Likud activists. The images were accompanied by text declaring him “politically eliminated!” The text also reportedly said that since Ya’alon had criticized the soldier’s supporters, the Likud Central Committee would “assassinate” him in the party’s next internal elections.
The accused soldier’s father has come out against the “incitement campaign” against Ya’alon while urging him to ensure his son has a fair trial given his “rush to judge” the soldier.