IDF gives lenient community service sentence for killing of Palestinian

An IDF Court on Wednesday confirmed a controversial plea deal which gave the IDF soldier who shot and killed an innocent Palestinian a lenient sentence of three months of community service.

Right-wing protesters show their support for an IDF soldier court martialed for shooting a defenseless Palestinian in Hebron (photo credit: REUTERS)
Right-wing protesters show their support for an IDF soldier court martialed for shooting a defenseless Palestinian in Hebron
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An IDF Court on Wednesday confirmed a controversial plea deal that handed an IDF soldier a lenient sentence of three months’ community service after he shot and killed an innocent Palestinian near Efrat last year.
The court split in a 2-1 vote, with the dissenting judge saying that the soldier should serve jail time for killing 23-year-old Palestinian Ahmad Manasra on March 20, 2019.
Manasra was helping another Palestinian, Ala Iaada, who had been shot by the same soldier and was seriously wounded.
The soldier who killed Manasra was charged with negligent homicide but he was not charged for shooting and wounding Iaada, despite the event being mentioned in the indictment.
Rights group B’Tselem responded to the decision by saying that “unlawfully shooting and killing a person who poses no danger to the shooter cannot be considered a ‘complex operational situation’.”
“Ahmad Manasra was an innocent passerby who paid with his life for trying to help a family at whose car soldiers had shot for no reason. The soldier who killed him will serve three months’ menial military labor,” said the NGO.
B’Tselem said the sentence proved “a policy of systemic whitewashing and lack of accountability for Israeli security forces who shoot and kill Palestinians with no justification, instead of using law enforcement to protect victims.”
The result and incomplete explanation provided at the time by the IDF Spokesman’s office raised several questions and informed sources told The Jerusalem Post that a significant number of new details place the plea bargain in a new light.
The IDF said that Iaada was waving his hands at another driver who had collided with him, but who then improperly left the scene. Although Iaada had clearly breached no laws by simply waving his hands at another driver and then fleeing a collision scene, the IDF soldier believed that he was throwing rocks at passing vehicles.
The IDF legal division found that, although mistaken, the soldier had made a reasonable assumption.
It therefore followed that framing the event as a shooting to wound and arrest a dangerous rock thrower (as opposed to a rock thrower who is too far away to harm drivers) was the basis for not charging the soldier for shooting Iaada, who survived.
But none of this explained why the soldier deserved such a lenient charge and a plea deal with no jail time after he shot Manasra.
Even according to the soldier’s version of events, Manasra was not waving his arms or endangering anyone.
The only way for the soldier to justify shooting Manasra was to state that he believed Manasra had confused him with Iaada, whom he believed was throwing rocks.
If Manasra had been the same man as the one the soldier believed to be throwing rocks, then he had made a massive mistake and this should have changed the court’s analysis of his conduct.
Critics will likely ask if the story is a sloppy cover-up and they may also say that if the soldier made such a genuine mistake because his view of the scene was so poor as to make a clear mistake of identity, then his decision to shoot was unreasonable and he should have been charged with manslaughter.
The Post has learned that the soldier was a new immigrant with from a country that left him unprepared for the incident, which lasted a few seconds.
The Post has learned that the soldier was on his own at the time of the incident and it was the first time he had faced a potential operational situation or had used live fire.
Further, the IDF Spokesman’s office said there were alerts on the day of the incident warning of a heightened possibility of attacks.
The Post has also learned that the soldier’s sense was likely affected by a spike of terror attacks in the vicinity, including against a fellow soldier and against Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a well-known local figure, three days earlier.
Finally, The Post has learned that immediately after shooting Manasra and before he had any time to inspect the scene or carefully think through the incident, the soldier reported that he had shot a rock thrower.
If the soldier’s version of events is to be believed, the most serious charge that could be brought against him is negligent homicide, as opposed to manslaughter, although even for this, the soldier could have been given a custodial sentence.
In another case, border policeman Ben Deri was convicted of negligent homicide and was sentenced to nine months in jail.
The Post has learned that the IDF legal division’s view was that there was evidence of malicious intent against Deri and that this led to the relatively severe punishment for a negligent homicide conviction.
However, the view is that the absence of malicious intent by the soldier in the March 2019 incident led to the decision that he should not spend time behind bars,  especially since by the time he was indicted in July, he was no longer in the IDF.