A soldier who was caught on film shooting an incapacitated Palestinian stabber in Hebron to death was remanded until March 31, judges announced Tuesday at the the end of a hearing on the matter held at the Qastina military court.
Military judge Lt. Col. Ronen Shor said that although it was likely the soldier had acted unlawfully, the evidence was not clear-cut.
“Given the circumstances, I find that although there is reasonable suspicion that the shooting was illegal, the evidence accumulated so far is inconclusive regarding the key issues in dispute,” Shor said.
The suspect’s lawyer said the prosecution had asked for a nine-day remand, and that the fact that the court ordered only a two-day remand showed the court’s reservations over the case.
The prosecution, unusually, did not specify which charges it intended to bring against the soldier.
During the hearing for the soldier, a military prosecutor stated he believed the suspect had deliberately executed the Palestinian, but hinted he may not be charged with murder. The prosecutor said the accused man shot the Palestinian stabber in the head though the assailant no longer posed a threat.
An IDF soldier was moderately wounded during the incident last Thursday, and one of two Palestinian assailants was shot dead at the scene.
The 19-year-old suspect, whose name is being withheld from publication, was filmed shooting the second attacker, who was wounded and lying nearly motionless, in the head some ten minutes after he had already been shot and incapacitated. The soldier was arraigned Friday on suspicion of murder, drawing anger from his family, right-wing politicians and others who claim the army was passing judgment before probing the incident.
Upwards of 1,000 demonstrators gathered outside the military court earlier Tuesday to express support for the soldier. Most of the protesters chanted slogans in his favor and demanded his release, though some yelled out epithets against Arabs and invoked the ultranationalist Kahane movement.
At the rally, Yisrael Beytenu party head MK Avigdor Liberman claimed there was no basis for the accusations against the soldier. Liberman went on to attack Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who leveled harsh criticism against lawmakers who had expressed support for the soldier.
“The claim [against the soldier] has collapsed, I’m sure he will be acquitted,” Liberman said. “I’m sorry that [Ya’alon] has determined in advance the results of the military investigation. This harms the military.”
Ya’alon, on his part, said Tuesday hit back at the public officials who expressed support for the soldier.
“There is a confusion, and the involvement of non-professional officials in issues of rules of engagement and what is happening now, is not useful,” Ya’alon said during a meeting at Central Command headquarters.
“It is our duty to prevent the evil spirits from the outside to influence us, there’s a fight for the character and image of the State of Israel, and Israeli society is having an effect on the army. It is important that the IDF remain a stable anchor and maintain norms and values.”
The prosecutor hinted on Monday the soldier may face manslaughter charges, walking backing a statement Friday that he could face murder charges.
“We are trying to decide what he could be charged with, including manslaughter,” the prosecutor said at the hearing.
The prosecutor also said the soldier, who originally said the Palestinian assailant posed a threat, had changed his recounting of the incident during questioning.
Senior IDF officials and Ya’alon, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have defended the decision to charge the soldier and insisted that his actions violated the army’s ethical code.
Ya’alon has also castigated fellow lawmakers for “inciting” against army brass while defending the soldier.
According to the army, the soldier said before shooting the surviving Palestinian stabber that he should be killed, and told his commanders afterward that the assailant had deserved to die.
In Israel, the incident quickly escalated into a national debate about the IDF’s rules of engagement and its use of force in regards to Palestinians.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Monday for the soldier to be brought to justice, while the PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat demanded a UN probe of what he called Israeli extrajudicial “executions.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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