Middle East

Israeli soldier 'faces manslaughter' for killing wounded attacker

A scene from the video showing a soldier raising his gun at the wounded Palestinian Image copyright AFP
Image caption A scene from the video showing a soldier raising his gun at the wounded Palestinian

An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian attacker in a case which has polarised public opinion will be charged with manslaughter, reports say.

The soldier appeared in court a week after the incident in Hebron, West Bank

He shot the Palestinian, who had knifed other soldiers, after the man was already lying wounded on the ground.

His detention was criticised by some Israelis who say he did nothing wrong, but critics say he committed an extra-judicial killing.

Mobile phone footage of the shooting, released by the left-wing BTselem human rights group, showed a soldier cock his gun and shoot the apparently incapacitated Palestinian from several feet away.

The soldier, whose identity has been withheld by court order, said he feared the attacker, 21-year-old Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, was wearing an explosive vest.

However, army investigators said the soldier had told a comrade before he shot him that the wounded attacker "deserved to die" for stabbing his friend.

Sharif and another Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, had stabbed two soldiers at a checkpoint in the city, which is divided between a Palestinian-ruled area and smaller Israeli enclave.

Opinion split

The case has triggered fierce debate in Israel around how much force security personnel should be permitted to use against attackers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under criticism from right-wing sections of society, including in his own cabinet, for swiftly saying the soldiers actions "did not represent the values of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]".

He later soften his tone, saying soldiers sometimes had to make quick decisions under pressure.

His Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, accused "senior politicians" of "dancing to the tune of BTselem", and said the soldier deserved to have a fair trial.

Hebron has seen a rash of stabbings of Israelis amid a wave of near-daily attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs in recent months.

Since October, 29 Israelis have been killed in stabbings, shootings or car-rammings.

Some 200 Palestinians - mostly attackers, Israel says - have been killed in that time.

The assailants who have been killed have either been shot dead by their victims or security forces as they carried out attacks. Some attackers have been arrested. Other Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops amid spiralling violence.