The Israeli soldier filmed shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian terrorist last month will remain in “open” supervised detention on a military base. A military appeals court on Tuesday upheld the decision of a lower court, rejecting the prosecution’s request to send the soldier back to jail.
A further hearing about extending the soldier’s detention will be held Thursday, Maariv reported.
Prosecutor Adoram Reigler told the court that the military had gathered enough evidence to move forward with a manslaughter charge, the Ynet news website said.
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 the West Bank city 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, who shot and killed Sharif some 10 minutes after he’d already been incapacitated and disarmed, was arrested by military police, but since Friday has been out of jail and held in supervised detention on an army base, amid a roiling political scandal over his actions and the army’s response.
He was arrested after video of the incident emerged.
Right-wing politicians and the soldier’s family have claimed he was being “lynched” by the media, and demonstrators have called for him to be released.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon leveled harsh criticism Tuesday at the soldier’s supporters.
He said he was “worried about the public climate” surrounding the case, and what he called “an unprecedented” furore. “I suggest that the rules for opening fire be determined by the IDF chief of staff and not gang leaders.”
“The ethical issue we face as an army after the Hebron incident is a question of life and death,” he said during a visit to a high school in Beit She’an.
“When we talk about ‘he who rises up to kill you’” — a Talmudic dictum that ends with “rise up and kill him first” — “we have to also talk about [the biblical commandment] ‘Thou shalt not murder.’”
It is important to us as an army that we know how to win [in battle] while remaining human beings. If we lose our moral compass, we will lose our way. It is forbidden to act in contravention of our orders,” Ya’alon told the students.
“Long before anyone saw the video” of the soldier shooting the Palestinian, “his commanders understood that this was irregular behavior and launched an inquiry.”
The defense minister went on to say he was “very worried about what has happened since the incident. Those who back such a soldier do not support the law or our values.”
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 escalated into a national debate about the IDF’s rules of engagement and its use of force in regards to Palestinians.
In the wake of the incident, thousands of Israelis took to the streets across the country in defense of the soldier, and demanding his release from custody.
Earlier on Tuesday, army prosecutor Adoram Reigler told a military court that the IDF had gathered enough evidence to move forward with a manslaughter charge against the soldier and demanded that he be imprisoned for the duration of the trial.
The soldier, who maintains that he shot al-Sharif because he feared there were explosives on his person, said in his defense in court: “I saw him move his hand and head. I didn’t shoot for no reason. I wouldn’t have fired if I didn’t feel I was in imminent danger.”
“If there had been an explosive belt, I’d be in the cemetery now, not in the court,” he said. “These Military Police investigators are in an office, not in the field where they can be shot at.”
“I was emotional, and in a split second I decided to shoot,” Ynet quoted the soldier saying Tuesday.
The prosecution maintained that there was no evidence to support the soldier’s claim, pointing out that he didn’t warn anyone of a possible explosive charge, and showed no signs of distress afterwards. But in his decision to relegate the soldier to his base rather than send him to jail, the judge said he couldn’t rule out the soldier’s account.