In a stunning development, B’Tselem announced on Monday that it has interviewed two witnesses who said a second IDF soldier executed another terrorist during what has become known as the Hebron shooter incident.
Sgt. Elor Azaria is currently on trial for manslaughter for the March 24 shooting of Abdel Fatah al-Sharif who attacked IDF soldiers, but was shot and wounded. Several minutes later, Azaria shot and killed the wounded and immobile terrorist.
The shooting, documented on a video distributed by B’Tselem, went viral online and triggered a national debate over Azaria’s guilt or innocence.
A second terrorist, Ramzi al-Kasrawi, was also shot and killed during the incident. Until now the assumption has been that al-Kasrawi was shot in self-defense, while the situation was still dynamic and he was attacking the soldiers.
But according to the two Hebron witnesses interviewed by B’Tselem, Nur Abu Ayasha and Amani Abu Ayasha, al-Kasrawi was shot and immobilized, and then only later shot in the head. If true, the summary execution would constitute a war crime.
The IDF responded that B’tselem’s claims “do not match the findings of our operational investigation, and contradict the information the IDF has on the incident.”
The IDF stated that the shots fired at al-Kasrawi were necessary in order to “remove the threat while he was attacking the soldiers with a knife.”
At press time, it was unclear to whether the IDF would carry out a supplemental investigation into the new allegations, or whether it would rest its conclusions on the already completed probe.
Seeking to confirm the new allegations, The Jerusalem Post spoke to the witnesses on Monday. Nur Abu Aysha said, “I was 10 meters away from the scene. I saw Kasrawi laying on the ground bleeding, and suddenly an IDF officer came at the place and shot him in the head. Kasrawi was shot after the first attempt to neutralize Sharif.”
Amani Abu Aysha told the Post, “I saw Ramzi Qasrawi laying on the ground bleeding, moving slowly, when one soldier came and shot him four times. I do not remember if there was a knife nearby.”
It is unclear why the allegations have been made now, nearly six weeks after the incident – a time lag which raises suspicions about the genuineness of the claims.
(IDF soldier shoots dead subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, part of Elor Azaria case)
B’Tselem initially explained it only recently gained access to the area where the witnesses live since the area has been closed off by the IDF for months.
Pressed by the Post, a B’Tselem spokeswoman conceded that the witnesses could have been reached by telephone or other forms of communication.
Indeed the testimony by the Abu Ayashas is not new. In a March 28 interview with the Palestinian news agency Maan four days after the incident, Nur Abu Aysha said, “After an IDF officer shot two times on Sharif’s belly, he headed to Qasrawi and shot him on his head two times.” His account is essentially the same story he told to the Post.
Azaria’s lawyer, Ilan Katz, told the Post that if the new allegations are true, “it would signal concealment of information by the prosecution.”
Katz has been arguing on behalf of Azaria that the IDF is arbitrarily prosecuting him, and that numerous cases occurred where the army did not indict soldiers for similar conduct.
The latest B’tselem allegations, if they prove true, would be an evidentiary coup supporting Katz’s argument.
Last week, the Azaria trial opened as the IDF’s lead investigator testified that an ambulance driver had moved a knife closer to the wounded Palestinian attacker’s body after the shooting, implying he tampered with evidence to make the killing look more like self-defense.
Video footage that the prosecution unveiled at the Jaffa Military Court hearing showed that the knife was three to four meters away, clearly out of reach of al-Sharif, both before and after the shooting – until it was moved at an even later point.
The driver, Ofer Ohana, also was responsible for taking many of the videos of the incident. The military police investigator with the rank of major said that at one point Ohana’s video stopped, he moved the knife and then resumed videoing.
Just prior to the major’s testimony, the prosecution made its opening statement, in which Lt. Col.
Nadav Weissman slammed Azaria as having broken with the IDF’s “fundamental values…regarding purity of arms.”
He told the court martial that it should convict Azaria of manslaughter since he admits to almost all of the facts in the case regarding his shooting of al-Sharif, which shifts the burden of proof to the defense to prove self-defense.
Weissman further charged that Azaria repeatedly changed his account of the incident.
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