Inquiry Launched After Film Shows Israeli Soldier Firing Rubber Bullet at Palestinian at Close Range
JERUSALEM - An Israeli human rights group released video footage last night showing an Israeli soldier firing a rubber-coated bullet at close range at a Palestinian man who had already been detained, blindfolded and cuffed.
The Palestinian, who had been involved in a demonstration in the occupied West Bank village of Nil'in on July 7, was injured in the toe by the shooting. He was treated by army medics and released, according to the rights group, B'Tselem.
The video clip, which is just over a minute long, was filmed by a 14-year-old Palestinian girl from her home in the village and passed on to B'Tselem.It begins by showing the Palestinian, named as Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, at the demonstration where he waved a Palestinian flag and gave a V for victory sign. The video then cuts to show Abu Rahma sitting on a road blindfolded, with his hands cuffed by a plastic tie and surrounded by Israeli soldiers and military vehicles.He is then shown standing at the back of a military vehicle next to an Israeli army officer, identified by B'Tselem as a lieutenant colonel, who is holding Abu Rahma by his right arm.Moments later another Israeli soldier standing less than two metres away raises his rifle to his shoulder, takes aim and, without any apparent provocation, fires directly towards the feet of Abu Rahma. The video briefly stops and restarts with Abu Rahma lying on the floor in the same spot while an Israeli soldier inspects his lower legs. At least six other uniformed Israeli soldiers are standing nearby, looking on.
B'Tselem said it passed a copy of the footage to the commander of the Israeli military police investigation unit and called for an immediate military investigation.
"B'Tselem demanded that the involvement of the lieutenant colonel who was holding the detainee is investigated," it said. "B'Tselem stressed that members of the security forces are obligated to report unlawful acts. It is even more serious if a high-ranking officer participates in such a whitewash."
Last night, the Israel Defence Force said an investigation had been ordered: "This was a serious incident in stark violation of the IDF's rules of conduct and safety."
It described Abu Rahma as a "rioter" and said he had been "arrested for taking part in a violent riot" near Nil'in.
It said he was allowed home after being examined by a military doctor who found he had been "very lightly wounded with swelling of a toe on his right foot". It added: "The injury was sustained when an IDF soldier fired an anti-riot weapon in close proximity to the detained Palestinian man."
The village of Nil'in is one of the latest to demonstrate against the construction of Israel's West Bank barrier which has cut off the community from a large area of its farmland and protects Jewish settlements built inside the occupied West Bank. All settlements on occupied territory are illegal under international law.
Although demonstrations like those at Nil'in are intended by organisers to be non-violent, they have involved Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military often fires tear-gas and rubber-coated bullets at the demonstrators.
In January last year, B'Tselem began to give more than 100 video cameras to Palestinians who live near settlements, Israeli military bases or at the scenes of frequent Israeli military incursions in the West Bank as part of a project, called Shooting Back, to expose human rights violations.
Last month Israeli police arrested two Jewish settlers after footage from one of B'Tselem's cameras showed four masked settlers severely beating a group of Palestinian shepherds near the village of Khirbet Susiya in the southern West Bank.
© 2008 The Guardian