Rights Group Hails Video As New Weapon Against Israeli Army

JERUSALEM - Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, yesterday promised an inquiry after video footage showed an Israeli soldier shooting baton rounds at a Palestinian detainee who was blindfolded and cuffed."The Israeli military will investigate the incident, learn its lessons and hold those responsible to account," he told MPs from his Labour party. "Warriors do not behave like this."

The advocate general, Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit, is said to have ordered a military police inquiry after he saw the footage released on Sunday by the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem. The incident happened on July 7 in Nil'in village. Several other soldiers were present, including a lieutenant colonel who was holding the arm of the Palestinian man.

The man shot, Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was treated for an injury to his toe and was then released.

It was the latest incident in which video footage has been used to highlight violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. B'Tselem has been running a project since January last year in which it has given out around 100 video cameras to Palestinians to allow them to film human rights abuses in the West Bank. The Nil'in footage was filmed on a private camera by a 17-year-old girl who lives in the village. B'Tselem has now given her one of its cameras as part of its Shooting Back project.

Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for B'Tselem, said the footage was intended as much for an Israeli audience as for an international one. She said spoken or written testimony from Palestinians involved in such cases was often given little weight in official police or military investigations into apparent abuses, but video footage was much more powerful.

"I see no better way of encouraging accountability among members of the security forces," said Michaeli.

(c) 2008 The Guardian

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