by Daphne Rousseau An Israeli soldier caught on video shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head was charged with manslaughter on Monday in a case that has sparked widespread controversy.
Prosecutors presented the indictment to a military court over the March 24 killing, which occurred minutes after the Palestinian had stabbed another soldier and lay prone on the ground wounded by gunfire, according to Israeli authorities.
“The accused violated the rules of engagement without operational justification as the terrorist was lying on the ground wounded and represented no immediate threat for the accused or others who were present,” a copy of the indictment said.
“By his acts, the accused unlawfully caused the death of the terrorist Abdul Sharif.”
The identity of the 19-year-old soldier, who was hugged by his mother as he arrived for the hearing, has remained secret under a gag order.
Video of the incident in Hebron in the occupied West Bank spread widely online and the soldier was arrested, with rights groups labelling it a summary execution.
The video showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another man after stabbing and moderately wounding a soldier minutes earlier, according to the army.
The soldier then shoots him again, in the head, without any apparent provocation.
His lawyers have argued that the soldier may have thought the Palestinian was wearing explosives, but he was reportedly already checked for a suicide belt and no one in the video appears to be acting with caution toward him.
– Political debate –
The soldier was held at a military prison in the days after the shooting before being confined to his base on April 1. The court was in the process of considering his detention conditions on Monday.
Defence lawyer Ilan Katz said he believed the court would release him because he “acted as we expect from a combat soldier… when he sees a terrorist who might be a suicide bomber.”
The case has led to major controversy in Israel and sparked political tensions, with far-right supporters and politicians calling for the soldier’s release.
Top military brass have however strongly condemned the soldier’s actions.
The killing came amid a wave of violence that began in October and which has killed 201 Palestinians and 28 Israelis.
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.
The attacks have steadily declined in recent weeks, though there have been concerns that the Jewish Passover holiday beginning April 22 could lead to a new surge in violence.
An incident on Thursday ended a three-week lull in deadly violence.
According to the Israeli army, a Palestinian armed with an axe sought to attack an Israeli soldier in the southern West Bank and was shot dead.
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse
Daily Maverick © All rights reserved