IDF troops: Not surprised he blamed soldier

Troops write letter lambasting officer involved in shooting of unarmed, bound Palestinian in W. Bank.

soldier shoot pally 224. (photo credit: AP [file])
soldier shoot pally 224.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The IDF soldier filmed firing a rubber bullet at the foot of an unarmed and bound Palestinian demonstrator in the West Bank two weeks ago has been released from Military Police custody, the army said on Tuesday morning. The soldier and his commanding officer, a battalion commander with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, had given contradictory accounts of the incident to Military Police, blaming each other for the shooting, and soldiers who served under the battalion commander in the past said they weren't surprised by his attempts to blame the soldier. Israel Radio reported Tuesday morning that in a letter written to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the commander's former soldiers described him as irresponsible, recounting how on one occasion, he forced them to leave an army post in the western Negev despite an IDF directive not to leave the area due to the threat of mortar shell attacks. After they left, said the soldiers, two mortar shells landed in the area, causing no casualties or damage. The soldiers said they wished to express their view before the Military Police decided whether the commander should stand trial. The soldier who fired the rubber bullet told Military Police that he was given an order to fire the rifle by the battalion commander, Lt.-Col. Omri. He claimed that the commander ordered him to fire, saying "shoot him, shoot him." During his interrogation, Omri denied telling the soldier to shoot, saying that he had merely told him to shake his gun in order to scare the Palestinian. He said that he did not witness the actual shooting, but during his interrogation he did take a certain degree of responsibility for the incident, since it took place in his presence and under his command. The incident was not reported to Military Police until the B'tselem human rights organization received the footage on Sunday morning and immediately forwarded a copy to the Military Police Investigation Unit. Barak on Monday criticized the conduct of the soldier. "The IDF is an ethical and moral army that acts according to high standards of purity of arms," Barak said during a Labor faction meeting. "The IDF will investigate the incident, learn lessons from it and bring those responsible to justice. As a soldier for decades, I and the other former soldiers at the table can say, this is not how a soldier should behave." The incident took place on July 7 near Nil'in, northwest of Modi'in Illit. In recent weeks, Nil'in has been the scene of near-daily violent demonstrations against the construction of the West Bank security fence there. In the video - which the military said was reviewed by Judge Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit - a Palestinian demonstrator, Ashraf Abu Rahma, is seen handcuffed and blindfolded as he is led to a jeep by an IDF officer. The video clip then shows a soldier aim his weapon at the demonstrator's legs from about 1.5 meters away and fire a rubber bullet at him. Abu Rahma said the bullet hit his left toe and that he received treatment from an army medic and was then released by the soldiers. The battalion commander is seen holding Abu Rahma's arm when the shot is fired. "I closed my eyes and I don't remember anything," Abu Rahma told Channel 2 Sunday night. "It felt like my leg was gone." The incident was filmed by a 14-year-old Palestinian girl from her house in Nil'in.