Israeli soldier who shot Palestinian in the head facing manslaughter probe

A man lies on the ground surrounded by soldiers before being shot in the head, in a screenshot from the video shared online.
A man lies on the ground surrounded by soldiers before being shot in the head, in a screenshot from the video shared online.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

JERUSALEM (AFP) - An Israeli soldier caught on video shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head as he lay on the ground is being investigated for manslaughter and not murder, the military said on Thursday.

Prosecutors had reportedly first considered a murder charge against the 19-year-old soldier, but told a military court during a hearing on Thursday that they were investigating him for manslaughter, Israeli media reported.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the reports to AFP.

Prosecutors were also seeking to extend the remand of the soldier, who was arrested after the March 24 shooting. A decision had not yet been issued.

The lawyer for the soldier, who has not yet been charged, welcomed the prosecutors' move.

"The significance from our point of view is that, first of all, the prosecution has climbed down," Ilan Katz told army radio.

"I believe that in a short time that suspicion will also be dropped."

 

Under Israeli law, manslaughter signifies an intentional but not premeditated killing.

Separately on Thursday, Israel's supreme court ruled that the family of the Palestinian killed would be allowed to have a pathologist of their choosing present at his autopsy.

Top military and government officials have strongly condemned the soldier's behaviour, but far-right politicians and protesters have reacted angrily to his arrest and demanded his release.

The 19-year-old soldier's identity and that of his family have remained secret under a gag order, granted at the request of his lawyers.

Video of the March 24 killing in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron spread widely online, sparking heated political debate.

It showed a 21-year-old Palestinian, who along with another man had allegedly stabbed a soldier minutes earlier, lying on the ground, apparently after being shot.

The soldier then shoots him again, in the head, without any apparent provocation. The Palestinian, Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, was killed.

The case has threatened to further provoke Israeli-Palestinian tensions amid a wave of violence that began in October.

Several hundreds of the soldier's supporters protested outside the military base where the court is located during a previous court hearing on Tuesday.

Violence since October has left 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.

But Israeli forces have also been accused of using excessive force in some cases, charges which they have firmly denied.

A letter from 11 US lawmakers in February that has recently come to light calling on the State Department to look into allegations of possible "extrajudicial killings" by Israel has received widespread attention in the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily to the letter, saying "where is the concern for the human rights of the many Israelis who've been murdered and maimed by these savage terrorists?"