The Association for Civil Rights in Israel on Wednesday appealed to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to overrule the IDF legal division by reopening the case against Col. Yisrael Shomer, the Binyamin Brigade commander who shot dead Palestinian Muhammad al-Casba, 17, in July 2015 and indicting him for either manslaughter or negligent homicide.
Casba was killed under disputed circumstances, as Shomer shot Casba after he had thrown a large rock at Shomer’s vehicle.
But by the time Shomer shot Casba, he was fleeing. Military Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Sharon Afek did not think that he presented a concrete danger.
A video of the shooting distributed at the time by B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories - went viral and brought about calls for Shomer’s prosecution and led to an unusual full criminal investigation.
The video did not show the shooting, though it showed some events before and afterward.
The incident took place near a-Ram, which is adjacent to Ramallah, at a time of a heightened security level in the West Bank following a spate of terrorist attacks.
The commander was on his way to the Kalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah when the rock hit his windshield.
ACRI said that its review of the case file, including multiple interrogations of Shomer, soldier D. and Maj. G. showed that Shomer’s narrative was rife with contradictions that collectively proved he should be indicted for manslaughter or negligent homicide.
For example, ACRI said Shomer’s original story was that he shot Casba when he saw Casba facing him and holding an unidentified object that might have presented a danger.
However, after confronted with video footage of Casba fleeing, Shomer admitted he had fired on Casba running away with his back to him while Shomer was also running and without properly aiming through his gun’s scope.
Though Shomer maintained he had been carrying out a procedure for arresting a dangerous suspect, and that his misfiring that killed Casba was only meant to wound him in the knees and was a professional error, but not negligent homicide, ACRI said Shomer and the military-advocate general’s standard for judging the issue went against the recognized legal standard.
Afek ruled in April 2016 that Shomer had properly followed the rules of engagement for apprehending a suspect, by firing two warning shots and then aiming and firing for Casba’s legs. Afek said that Shomer missed by mistake due to firing while moving, as opposed to firing from a static standing position, and that despite this unintentional error, the procedure of firing at Casba’s legs had been correct.
Further, Afek stated that despite the gravity of Shomer’s mistake, it occurred in “unambiguously operational circumstances” and did not rise to the level of a criminal offense.
Supporters of the colonel have argued rock throwing is a serious threat and that IDF personnel responding in real-time to such a threat should be given wide latitude.