An Israeli soldier who was filmed murdering a subdued Palestinian with a shot to the head will be charged with manslaughter according to prosecutors.
The announcement has caused national outrage and strong support for the soldier.
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After the military court in Jaffa ordered the soldier to remain in custody until Monday so the prosecution can finish its work before formally indicting him, demonstrators on the street chanted, “Whoever kills a terrorist is an Israeli hero!”
The military investigation of the 19-year-old sergeant, whose name remains under a gag order, began after the March 24 shooting in the West Bank city of Hebron, a focal point for months of Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
The military initially said two Palestinians stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops shot and killed the pair. Video taken by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem shows the solider approaching the wounded Palestinian man, Abd al Fattah Yusri al Sharif, who was on the ground and slowly moving his head before the soldier then fires. An autopsy by Israeli forensic doctors, in the presence of a Palestinian forensic doctor, showed the last shot in the head caused al Sharif’s death.
Several Israeli officials called the soldier’s action contrary to the military’s moral code. That prompted protests in support of the solider, including social media campaigns for “bringing home our boy,” especially after months of attacks.
“Because every family has children in the army … we consider all the soldiers as our own children,” said Yigal Michael Maimon, a former intelligence officer in the Israeli army. “We don’t want (soldiers) to feel that they can’t do anything in their own defense, that while they’re out in the field protecting us, they should be worried about political correctness.”
A Channel 2 survey released last month showed 68% of respondents said the prime minister and defense minister were wrong to arrest the soldier, and 64% said the soldier acted “responsibly” or “naturally” under the pressure of the situation. Only 5% viewed the incident as a murder.
Nearly 60,000 Israelis have signed a petition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot requesting that the soldier be awarded a badge of honor for his actions. In February, Eizenkot called for soldiers to practice restraint and said there is no justification for “emptying a magazine on a girl holding scissors” she intends to use against Jewish targets.
In testimony leaked to Channel 2 on April 12, the soldier said he didn’t remember saying the attacker deserved to die, as he had originally told the army during the investigation, but he added that “it makes sense that a terrorist who came to kill needs to die.”
The investigation is the first of its kind during the seven-month wave of violence, involving mostly young Palestinians who carry out attacks against civilians and soldiers with knives, guns or cars. A total of 28 Israelis and two Americans have died as the result of Palestinian attacks, and at least 189 Palestinians have died, most of whom Israel has identified as attackers, according to the Associated Press.
Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson of B’tselem, the group that recorded the video, said dozens of “unnecessary killings” did not result in investigations. Most Israelis don’t realize that “when a Palestinian is killed, instead of only subdued, (that) feeds into more and more revenge attacks that harm Israelis,” Michaeli said.
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