The Military Police on Thursday arrested a soldier who was seen firing a shot to the head of an already wounded Palestinian terrorist, as he lay on his back in a Hebron street, near the Jewish Tel Rumeida neighborhood.
A volunteer for the NGO B’Tselem who lives near the scene of the incident filmed the shooting from the window of his home. It was posted online and immediately went viral, fueling condemnations from the left and right.
“The IDF expects its soldiers to behave with composure and in accordance with the rules of engagement,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, adding that this incident does not “represent the values of the IDF.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “We must not allow, even at a time that our blood boils, this loss of control.
This incident will be dealt with with the utmost severity.”
IDF soldiers killed both Abdel Fattah al-Sharif and Ramzi al-Kasrawi after they stabbed a soldier guarding the road that leads to the small Tel Rumeida neighborhood. The scene right after the attack was captured on a three-minute video that opens when Sharif, 21, is still alive.
Its first scenes show Magen David Adom paramedics pushing a gurney with the wounded soldier toward an ambulance.
Two other ambulances are waiting nearby. The body of Kasrawi, 21, can be seen on the pavement near that ambulance.
The lens then moves to Sharif’s upper body and shows him lying almost lifeless on the ground. A pool of blood has formed under his head, which he moves from one side to the other at around second 17 of the video.
The lens moves back to the soldier, who is bare-chested and wounded. He sits up on the gurney for a moment and then lies back down as paramedics lift him into the ambulance.
He was later taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem to be treated for light to moderate wounds.
As the Magen David ambulance heads away from the scene, a second ambulance moves past Sharif’s body, obscuring it for a moment and the viewer can hear that a shot is fired.
The ambulance continues a few paces up the road and Sharif returns to view. He is still lying on the pavement, but it appears as if he has been shot again, at point 1:55 of the video. His head is still and drawn back and fresh blood is flowing from it in three small streams down the pavement. The video then shows one of the ambulances repositioning itself near Sharif’s body as soldiers and civilians walk nearby.
Everyone who was present at the scene will be questioned, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz told reporters about the investigation.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.
Gadi Eisenkot and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa both take a “severe view” of the shooting, Almoz said. The investigation will “not leave any fact unclear, as to why a soldier opened fire on a terrorist who is lying on the ground. We have to understand what happened in regard to orders. Soldiers, after neutralizing a threat, are supposed to provide medical treatment, even if they are terrorists.
There is no room for interpretation here,” he added.
Until the last shot was fired at the already downed assailant, Almoz said, the incident had been handled correctly and was under control.
The investigation will seek to understand why the additional shot was fired.
“We will update the moment the investigation makes progress...
this will take a few more days,” he said. “This is a very severe, very unusual incident.”
Almoz praised soldiers at the scene for their initial reaction to the two knife attackers, saying they had prevented a terrorist attack in the Jewish neighborhood of Hebron.
Hamas has already published posters praising the two men as martyrs.
Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “personal responsibility for the murder.”
Speaking from Romania, Tibi said Netanyahu “should apologize to the Swedish minister [Margot Wallstrom].” Swedish Foreign Minister Wallstrom enraged the prime minister in December when she claimed Israel was carrying out extra-judicial killings in reaction to Palestinian terrorist attacks.”
Tibi added: “IDF soldiers and Israeli police shoot and execute Palestinians in cold blood, as a result of the incitement of Israeli ministers and politicians. Those politicians are no less responsible for the shooting today than the soldier who fired the bullets.”
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh claimed that “Israel over the last several months has become a place where public executions take place to the cheers of crowds. The State of Israel is trying to keep its reputation as a country which abides by the rule of law, but the truth is its ministers repeatedly call on the public to execute anyone suspicious,” Odeh said.
Warning of the consequences of incidents such as today’s, he said, “The price of the deterioration in ethics is paid by both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Odeh called upon those who have killed suspects to be indicted “along with those who sent them from Balfour 10 [the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem].”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman complained that “the attacks on the soldier are hypocritical and unjustified.” He said that MK Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, who accused Israel of murder, should move to Syria or join Hezbollah so they can “enjoy the kind of Arab democracy they deserve.”
Yesh Atid faction chairman MK Ofer Shelah said, “The murderous cruelty of the terrorists is not a reason for the IDF to abandon its values. The quick action of the army was praiseworthy, including the probe that found the soldier’s actions were against the values of the IDF.”
Shelah, who lost an eye fighting in Lebanon in 1983, continued by saying that ethics were a “source of strength for the army, and conceding this by even a small amount because of difficulties in facing terrorism, will harm our national security.”
Joint List MK Dov Henin from the Hadash Party said, “The pictures from Hebron should shock everyone with a conscience.
The people who are responsible first and foremost are our leaders who have directly and indirectly expressed support for the killing of innocents, even if they are no longer posing a threat.”
“It is important to understand we will continue to fall to lower depths if we do not change course immediately,” he said.
Meretz MK Esawi Frej also commented on the incident, saying, “The video of the soldier has proved that an IDF uniform does not guarantee human compassion.” Frej called the soldier a “murderer who fired in cold blood at the head of the helpless wounded man.” He added that if the soldier did not face a murder trial it would be undemocratic and improper.
His Meretz colleague, Tamar Zandberg, praised the organization B’Tselem for distributing the video.
“Without B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence we would have never known or seen,” Zandberg wrote on Twitter – despite the fact that military sources reported that the investigation had commenced before the video emerged.
On the right, Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev said it was too soon to judge the incident, because there have been recent incidents where wounded terrorists that were thought to have been neutralized attacked soldiers.
“The goal of the terrorist is to die, and I would prefer a dead terrorist to a dead soldier,” he told Army Radio.
Amnesty International said an international body would need to investigate the incident, not just the IDF.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said “a black flag has been raised by the incident,” but he trusts that the IDF and its officers will probe the incident properly and ensure that justice is done.
Ya’alon said that the shooting did not impact Israel’s overall war on terrorism in which the IDF has acted “with a steel hand against terrorists and those who send them, as soldiers on the ground did in real time today, neutralizing the terrorists in Hebron. Even then, we must not act in violation of our values and conscience.
Even when we must strike our enemies and defeat them in war or any battle with them, our moral obligation is... to safeguard our humanity.
“We must remember the limitations of power after the enemy has been struck, and avoid immoral behavior. We must remember that our power does not only stem from our military capability, but first of all, from our moral strength.
This is our duty, to win, and to remain human,” Ya’alon said.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.