MIDDLE EAST

After release of graphic video, Israeli soldier to face murder charges in shooting

The Israeli soldier captured on camera fatally shooting a suspected Palestinian assailant in the head after he was already disarmed and lying on the ground will face murder charges, an Israeli military court ruled Friday.

The three-minute cellphone video shot in Hebron by a Palestinian man had been given to the human-rights group B’Tselem, which passed it to the media and posted it online. The video received international attention and drew instant condemnation.

The soldier was arrested Thursday by military police.

The video begins moments after an Israeli soldier had been stabbed by two Palestinian men, just before Israeli settlers were due to hold a parade celebrating the festival of Purim.

The soldier is wheeled on a stretcher into a waiting ambulance, while one of the Palestinian men accused of the attack, Fatah Sharif, 21, lies on the ground after already being shot once. He is alive and moving his head, but appears to pose no threat.

“This terrorist is still alive, this dog,” a voice can be heard saying.

After two minutes a soldier approaches Sharif. A gunshot can be heard as a van moves slightly in front of the camera. When it passes, Sharif is seen lying motionless, with his head tilted back in a pool of blood.

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In a military courtroom Friday, the unnamed Israeli solder defended himself, saying that he shot the man because he believed he could be wearing an explosive vest and feared he posed an immediate danger.

Emad Abu-Shamsiya, the Palestinian who filmed the incident and was later investigated by the Israeli army, told Israeli media that he shot the video from a neighbor’s roof after a soldier pointed a weapon at him and asked the man, his wife and daughter to get out of the street where they had been watching the incident unfold.

He said his wife and daughter stayed in the doorway of their home while he went upstairs to a neighbor’s rooftop to film the confrontation. He said he one Palestinian man motionless, with blood running down his face, and another lying on the ground, still moving.

Then, he said, a soldier approached and casually shot Sharif.

“My wife and I are still in shock from what saw,” he said. “I never expected to see an execution with my own eyes.”

The fatal shooting has drawn international condemnation, with some Israelis and Palestinians even speaking out in a degree of unison.

“What happened in Hebron does not represent the values of the Israeli Defense Forces,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“Even when our blood is boiling we must not allow such a loss of sense, such a loss of control,” said Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in a statement.

Still, a survey by Vigo, which specializes in Internet data, showed the country torn, with 48% of social media users responding critically to the soldiers' actions while 46% defended them.

Others saw the incident as emblematic of government failures.

“This is what the occupation looks like, and this is the way our society will look as long as cowards with no vision lead it,” said Zehava Galon, the leader of left-wing Israeli party Meretz. He condemned the shooting.

Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, called the criticism of the soldier’s action “hypocritical and unjustified.”

Husam Zomlot, senior policy advisor for the Palestinian Fatah movement, said the actions of the soldier represented a wider scenario of violence.

“The whole scene in this video where soldiers stand around and medics refuse treatment are indicative of morally corrupt Israeli forces -- they are a cancerous mob, a bunch of thugs,” he told The Times.

The United Nations special envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladenov, expressed strong criticism of the soldier’s actions.

“This was a gruesome, immoral and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation,” he said.

Shuttleworth is a special correspondent.

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