Moral Low Ground


Israeli Soldier Arrested After Video Showing Execution of Wounded Palestinian Assailant

Screen shot from an eyewitness video of an IDF soldier executing a wounded and unarmed Palestinian man who was allegedly involved in a stabbing attack at a military checkpoint. (B'Tselem)

Screen shot from an eyewitness video of an IDF soldier executing a wounded and unarmed Palestinian man who was allegedly involved in a stabbing attack at a military checkpoint. (B’Tselem)

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier was arrested Thursday after a human rights group released a video in which he appears to execute a wounded Palestinian who allegedly stabbed an Israeli soldier minutes earlier.

The video, recorded by local Palestinian resident Emad abu-Shamsiyah and distributed by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, shows 21-year-old Palestinian Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif lying on the ground and barely moving after being shot in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, a tiny Jewish community in the predominantly Palestinian city of Hebron, in the illegally-occupied West Bank. As the wounded Israeli is given medical attention, Sharif is left lying in the street, conscious, his eyes open. Israeli troops and armed civilians ignore him, except a few civilians who approach to take photos with their mobile phones.

“This terrorist is still alive, this dog,” a voice is heard on the video. Moments later, a rifle can be heard cocking, and as an ambulance comes between the camera and Sharif, a gunshot is heard. Blood is then seen flowing from Sharif’s head. The shooter was later identified as an army medic.

“I heard gunshots, went outside my house to check what it was, and saw several Israeli soldiers yelling and two youths on the ground,” a witness told Ma’an News Agency.  A soldier approached one of the youths that was moving while yelling and opened fire at him from zero range.”

Minutes before the video was recorded, Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, also 21, were allegedly involved in a stabbing attack at a nearby occupation military checkpoint that injured an IDF soldier. Qasrawi was shot and killed following the attack.

IDF chief spokesman Gen. Moti Almoz condemned the execution, calling it “a very severe incident.”

“This is not the culture of the IDF, and not the culture of the Jewish people, and not connected to military procedure in any way,” Almoz said, according to YNet . “As far as the orders given to soldiers are concerned, the moment terrorists are neutralized, soldiers are supposed to immediately give medical assistance to the wounded, including the terrorists. This is the IDF, these are the values of the IDF, and this is not up for interpretation. We are unambiguous about this.”

However, B’Tselem said on its website that Israeli authorities are “by and large turning a blind eye to repeated grave suspicions of extrajudicial killing by the security forces, and these backed in the field by commanders. The message to the Israeli public is undeniable: attempting to injure a civilian or a soldier is a death sentence.”

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh also condemned the incident.

“Israel has turned in recent months into a place in which executions are carried out in public with the encouragement of cheering mobs,” he said in a statement. “The government of Israel tries to protect Israel’s image as a state governed by the rule of law but in practice its ministers call over and over for the public to execute every suspected person,” he said in a statement.

B’Tselem said that “extrajudicial street killings are the direct consequence of inflammatory remarks made by Israeli ministers and officials, augmented by the general public atmosphere of dehumanization.”

In recent years, prominent Israeli politicians and pundits have endorsed or called for violence against Palestinians. Ayelet Shaked, the ultranationalist Israeli justice minister, sparked international outrage over a Facebook post calling “the entire Palestinian people the enemy” and advocating genocide against all Palestinians, “including elderly women, cities and villages.” Her post received more than 5,000 ‘likes.’ During the 2014 Gaza war, in which Israeli forces  killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them innocent civilians, in response to Hamas rocket fire, the Times of Israel, one of the nation’s leading newspapers, published an editorial titled “When Genocide is Permissible.”

Israeli officials have long denied that IDF soldiers execute Palestinians. After Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström condemned both Palestinian stabbing attacks and Israel’s “disproportionate” response and “extrajudicial executions” last December, conservative Israeli lawmaker Yuval Steinitz and others called her an “antisemite,” a common tactic used by Israel supporters to deflect criticism of illegal Israeli policies and actions. This, despite repeated cases in which Israeli security forces killed Palestinians, including children, who posed no immediate threat.

Over the past six months, around 190 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, the majority of them while attacking Israelis. Twenty-nine Israelis and four foreign nationals—including two Americans—have been killed by Palestinian assailants resisting nearly half a century of illegal Israel occupation and settler colonization. Israel denies that the occupation and settlements are unlawful.

Earlier this year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the wave of knife attacks while accusing Israeli leaders of failing to “address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians, especially young people.”

“As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism,” said Ban.

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