Israel slammed after closing probe into shooting of attacker

Israel slammed by rights group after closing probe into shooting of Palestinian attacker already on ground
4 min read
09 December, 2021
The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground.
The incident happened in occupied East Jerusalem [Getty-file photo]

Israel’s justice ministry said on Thursday it was closing an investigation by one of its units into two police officers who shot dead a Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground, accepting the officers’ assertion that they acted in self-defence.

A Palestinian attacker on Saturday stabbed and wounded an ultra-Orthodox Jew outside occupied East Jerusalem's Old City. He then tried to stab the officers before being shot and falling to the ground. Video footage showed a paramilitary Border Police officer shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the floor.

The shooting prompted calls for an investigation and drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground.

Adalah, an NGO working to promote Palestinian legal rights in Israel, said: "The praising and show of support for the officers who shot [the Palestinian man on Saturday] – "confirming the kill" - by senior political leaders and the state's legal representatives encourage a policy of extrajudicial execution.

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"To date, PID [Israel's Police Investigation Department] has closed five complaints filed by the Adalah following the killing of Palestinians by police in Jerusalem alone; four of the five shootings, which are documented by videos, clearly show that they no longer posed danger to officers or anyone around them.

"It is difficult to imagine a serious and exhaustive investigation when the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Security and the Police Commissioner-General praise the officers on their actions before the investigation even began.

"In today's statement, the State Attorney proves that PID and the State Attorney's Office continue to be an integral part of a comprehensive political system, committed to back up police killings and their cover-up, and therefore an independent investigation of all levels is necessary."

The justice ministry said it made its decision to close the case following the questioning of the two officers, who said they acted in self-defence.

"It was an incident that took place over mere seconds, in circumstances in which there was a real and concrete threat to the lives of the fighters and the civilians in the area," it said in a statement. "It was found to be legally justified to use a weapon."

It comes after, on Wednesday,an Israeli woman was stabbed and lightly wounded in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, where residents face a campaign to expel them from their homes in favour of settlers. Arrests were made by the Israeli police, including of two teen students, according to local sources speaking with The New Arab.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. Tel Aviv unlawfully annexed the area in a move not recognised internationally and views the entire city its capital. Palestinians consider East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, to also include the West Bank and Gaza.

In the West Bank, where there are nearly half a million illegal Israeli settlers, settler violence has become part of Palestinians' daily life under. Israeli security forces enable these actions, which result in Palestinians casualties – injuries and fatalities – as well as damage to land and property.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have shown"appalling disregard for human life" by using reckless and unlawful lethal force against Palestinians, according to rights groups.

Amnesty International has repeatedly urged an end to the "worrying rise in unlawful killings by Israeli forces, fostered by a culture of impunity".

Palestinians and Israeli rights groups say Israeli security forces sometimes use excessive force in response to attacks, killing suspected assailants who could have been arrested or who posed no immediate threat to security forces.

Rights groups also say Israel rarely holds members of its security forces accountable for the deadly shootings of Palestinians. Investigations often end with no charges or lenient sentences, and in many cases witnesses are not summoned for questioning.

Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses.

In the widely publicized 2016 case, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. Azaria later served two-thirds of a 14-month sentence after being convicted of reckless manslaughter.

His case sharply divided Israelis. The military pushed for his prosecution, saying he violated its code of ethics, while many Israelis, particularly on the extreme right, defended his actions.