‘Counter to basic human morality’: Rights group slams IDF commander for killing Palestinian

Reuters / Ronen Zvulun
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released a video allegedly showing an IDF commander killing a Palestinian who threw stones at his car. The commander didn’t call an ambulance, moved the fatally-injured teen “with his leg” and drove off, says the group.

The incident happened on July 3 in the West Bank town of a-Ram, north of Jerusalem. A 17-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Ali-Kosba, began throwing stones at the car of Colonel Yisrael Shomer, commander of the Binyamin Regional Brigade.

Jerusalem-based B'Tselem commenced an investigation into the matter after various Israeli politicians issued statements in support of Shomer. It analyzed several witness accounts, took footage from a surveillance camera and consulted the doctors who treated the teen.

The group said in a press release that in the video “the vehicle is seen stopping at the junction immediately after the stone is thrown.”

“Two soldiers emerge and begin pursuing the fleeing teenager. A third soldier is seen waiting near the vehicle. No further stone throwing is seen. The rest of the pursuit and the shooting occur outside the surveillance camera’s field of vision and are therefore not visible.”

The organization cited eyewitnesses who said that Shomer shot Ali-Kosba “from a distance of some 10 meters and then went up to him and moved him with his leg.”

“Then, instead of obtaining medical aid for the injured youth, the soldiers drove off. The surveillance footage shows the two soldiers returning to the camera’s range some 30 seconds after the incident began, getting into the jeep and driving away.”

Ali-Kosba was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead.

Following the incident Major General Roni Numa from OC Central Command, said that he “fully backed the brigade commander [Shomer] and the way he handled the incident, in which the force was faced with real mortal threat.”

According to the IDF, Shomer “felt in mortal danger and carried out standard suspect-arrest procedure.”

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However, the group says that their investigation “found that the shooting that killed Ali-Kosba was unjustified and unlawful, and that the official version presented did not accord with the facts of the incident.”

The organization believes there is now doubt that “the shattering of the jeep’s front window with a stone endangered the passengers when it happened.

“However, Ali Kosba was shot in the back after the fact, when he was already running away and posing no “mortal threat” to the soldiers. Feeling a sense of danger is not enough to justify any action.”

The victim “sustained three bullet wounds to his upper body: one bullet hit the side of his face and two struck him from behind,” it said, adding that “the location and entry points of the injuries corroborate the details [show that] he was shot in the back while running away from the soldiers.”

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B'Tselem added that ‘standard suspect-arrest procedure’ doesn’t mean that the commander should have shot the Palestinian in the upper body.

“…military open-fire regulations permit shooting at the legs of a suspect in order to facilitate his arrest. They do not permit killing him by firing three shots at his upper body.”

Also the fact that the soldier didn’t help the teen and drove away without offering the injured any medical assistance “runs counter to basic human morality,” says the organization.

“It is also a breach of military regulations, which require soldiers to ensure to the extent possible that persons injured by shooting receive medical assistance.”

According to B'Tselem, the case shows that top military and civilian officials conveyed “an unlawful message to soldiers on the ground: shooting a Palestinian stone thrower is acceptable, even desirable, even if the person is fleeing and no longer poses a threat.”

The group said that it has already sent the footage sent to the Military Police Investigations Unit (MPIU).