Wave of sympathy for Israeli who shot injured Palestinian

Human rights group filmed shooting of wounded assailant in head

Israeli soldiers prepare to remove the body of the Palestinian assailant in Hebron last Thursday. Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli soldiers prepare to remove the body of the Palestinian assailant in Hebron last Thursday. Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images

 

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has defended the army decision to arrest a soldier over the shooting of a subdued Palestinian assailant following a wave of sympathy for the soldier who is suspected of murder.

Thursday’s incident in the West Bank city of Hebron, captured on video by the B’Tselem human rights group, showed the soldier shooting the Palestinian in the head as he lay on the ground after being shot 11 minutes earlier after stabbing and wounding another soldier.

The ongoing army investigation has determined that officers searched the wounded Palestinian and found that he wasn’t wearing an explosive vest. The soldier allegedly said the Palestinian should be killed before he shot him, and told his commanders afterwards that he had deserved to die.

The incident dominated Israeli social media over the weekend with 74 per cent of users expressing empathy for the soldier.

Right-wing politicians also spoke up, warning against judging the soldier before the completion of the military investigation.

The head of the far-right Jewish Home, education minister Naftali Bennett, appeared to aim his comments at Mr Netanyahu, defence minister Moshe Ya’alon and army chiefs who had all condemned the shooting as going against the values of the Israel Defence Dorces (IDF).

“This soldier is not a killer – have we lost our minds? We are fighting a war against vicious terrorism. What if the terrorist was carrying explosives?” Mr Bennett said. “Someone got confused between the bad guys and good guys. I intend to ensure that the soldier has a just trial and not a show trial.”

The Hebron incident came after six months in which there have been multiple Palestinian stabbings and car rammings. In that period 190 Palestinians have been killed, most of them assailants, along with 28 Israelis and two Americans. Palestinian groups have accused the Israeli security forces of carrying out extra-judicial killings in many of the cases, but the Hebron shooting was the first time a killing of a wounded assailant was caught on film.

Mr Netanyahu was quick to condemn the soldier’s conduct, but following the right-wing backlash he stressed his support for the army.

“Any challenge to the morality of the IDF is outrageous and unacceptable. The IDF soldiers, our children, maintain high ethical values while courageously fighting bloodthirsty murderers under difficult conditions. I am certain that in all cases, as in the current one, the inquiry takes into account all conditions. We must all support the IDF chief of staff and our soldiers, who safeguard our security.”

Several rallies were held over the weekend in support of the soldier. Protesters carried signs reading, “You don’t abandon a soldier in the field,” and “A dead terrorist is better than a jailed soldier”.