Thursday, August 09, 2007

Army Charges IDF Officer Over Wrongful Shooting Of Palestinian

Taken from Haaretz, Israel, 09/08/2007
By Yuval Azoulay and Amos Harel and News Agencies

The Israel Defense Force's military prosecutor has indicted an officer involved in the shooting of a Palestinian civilian in the West Bank last month, the army confirmed Thursday.

The officer, a lieutenant, and five of his men commandeered a local taxi, drove through the town of Dahariya and shot an unarmed Palestinian who aroused their suspicion, according to an initial army investigation.

The officer acted on his own initiative in violation of military orders, and left the wounded man on the ground without treating him, the investigation found.

The Palestinian man was later treated at a local clinic and transferred to an Israeli hospital.

The officer faced six serious charges, including aggravated assault, wrongful imprisonment, and overstepping authority in a manner that endangered lives.

According to the indictment, the officer had been ordered to patrol the outskirts of Dahariya by foot, but instead decided on his own accord to commandeer a Palestinian taxi and conduct an undercover operation in civilian clothing. The indictment also reveals that the officer had instructed his subordinates to keep quiet about the operation, which was never authorized by any of his superiors.

The indictment specifies that the officer and his troops randomly chose a taxi and stopped the driver while threatening him with their guns. The officer ordered his troops to remove the passengers from the vehicle and tie up the driver. The driver was then placed back in the cab, blindfolded, and was held there for the duration of the operation. The driver sustained bruises.

The troops then took note of an 18-year-old civilian approaching the vehicle. According to the indictment, the officer ordered one of the soldiers to "distance" the man from the car with his weapon, knowing that his gun was loaded and cocked, and that the soldier was not trained in operations such as the one they had improvised.

The indictment adds that the soldier then pointed his weapon out the window of the taxi and shot the Palestinian bystander. The bullet hit the left shoulder and exited his body through the chest. He was moderately to seriously wounded by the shot.

The indictment continues that the soldiers then abandoned the vehicle, leaving the driver bound in the back seat.

The soldier who fired the shot has not yet been indicted. Three senior commanders have been reprimanded over the incident, and all of the soldiers involved have been suspended from operational duty.

The affair, sparked by Palestinian reports of the incident, prompted GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni to conduct a rapid probe after which the entire company was barred from taking part in operations.

Shamni has also ordered an investigation into the norms and values in the battalion.

The suspects initially claimed that one of the soldiers had sprained his ankle during a morning patrol in the town and was no longer able to walk. They said the officer had then decided to stop and commandeer a Palestinian taxi.

The soldiers, belonging to the Lavi Battalion of the Kfir Infantry Brigade, went on to claim that after they had tied up the driver and taken control of the vehicle, another Palestinian approached the taxi.

The soldiers decided he was acting suspiciously and one of them fired shots in his direction, wounding him in the neck.

IDF sources said the initial investigation revealed that the soldiers had lied, and that none of them had sprained an ankle.

According to the army investigation, the platoon had decided on its own to carry out an undercover operation, without coordinating the operation with their superiors.

They allegedly removed their uniforms, donned civilian clothing and then commandeered the taxi.

The affair has caused major concerns in the Central Command. Military sources said that harsh steps are expected against the soldiers and officers involved, including perhaps the dismissal of one of them.

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