Most Israelis support IDF soldier accused of 'cold-blooded murder' of Palestinian – poll

Israeli security forces inspect the scene as the dead body of one of two Palestinians, whom the Israeli military said were shot dead by Israeli troops after they attacked an Israeli soldier, is covered in Tal Rumaida in the West Bank city of Hebron March 24, 2016. © Mussa Qawasma
The majority of Israelis support an IDF soldier, accused of shooting and killing a severely wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron last week. According to a poll by an Israeli TV station, only 5 percent of responders deem his actions lawless.

Some 57 percent of Israelis said there was no need to arrest the soldier or launch an investigation, revealed the poll, conducted for Israel’s Channel 2. Over 40 percent of those polled deemed the soldier's actions ‘responsible’. Only 5 percent described the shooting as ‘murder’.

The soldier is currently held in custody while being investigated by the Israeli military police on suspicion of murder of 21-year-old Abed Fatah al-Sharif last Thursday.

The shooting of the young Palestinian, accused of stabbing another Israeli soldier minutes earlier, was caught on camera and emerged at B’Tselem human rights center’s YouTube account. It featured one of the soldiers reloading his weapon and firing a headshot at the motionless victim lying on the ground. Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for B'Tselem, called it an "execution," while the UN's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov labeled it "a gruesome, immoral and unjust act."

“The video of al-Sharif’s killing by an Israeli soldier shows both an apparent cold-blooded murder and numerous witnesses, which should make for a strong legal case,” Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, pointed out.

Meanwhile, the soldier, who argued he “did the right thing” because the immobilized Palestinian “could blow himself up,” has won an army of supporters on Israeli social media, with thousands of people joining Facebook support groups and over 56,000 signing a petition backing his actions.

“This soldier should not have been arrested in a rush, he should have been praised because with his quick and decisive action he may have prevented a catastrophe,” the petition said.

At a court hearing on Tuesday, prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Edoram Rigler said there was no actual need for the Israeli soldier, who has not been officially named, to shoot and kill al-Sharif. 

After reviewing the crime video, the Israeli military court declared the evidence to be "inconclusive".

The judge , Lieutenant Colonel Ronen Shor, said on Tuesday that there is "reasonable doubt" about the shooting "given the complexity of the events" over the stabbing attempt and the fatality that followed. The soldier will be held in custody at least until Thursday.

“The IDF expects its soldiers to behave with composure and in accordance with the rules of engagement,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, adding that the incident does not “represent the values of the IDF.”

"This is not the IDF," IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot, said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “These are not the values of the IDF or the IDF culture."

With Israeli officials pledging that the incident will be dealt with “with the utmost severity,” the big question is “whether Israeli authorities will do what they haven’t done in countless other cases and bring the alleged killer to justice,” Whitson noted.