Israel confirms authenticity of video showing soldiers rejoicing after shooting Palestinian | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 10.04.2018
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Israel confirms authenticity of video showing soldiers rejoicing after shooting Palestinian

A video making the rounds online appears to show Israeli soldiers celebrating after shooting a Palestinian man. Israel's defense minister has lauded the shooter, but said the soldier who took the film should be demoted.

Israel's military on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of a video that shows soldiers celebrate after shooting a protester on the other side of the Gaza border.

A number of Israeli ministers, including defense chief Avigdor Lieberman, defended the soldiers in the video, while the military said the Palestinian had been shot in the leg and wounded. It was not clear whether the victim had died.

Read more: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman defends use of force against Gaza protests

The military also alleged that the incident took place last December following riots and warnings from troops. "During the riot, means were taken in order to disperse it, including verbal warnings and calls to halt, using riot dispersal means and firing warning shots into the air," the army said in a statement.

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Fears of further violence in Gaza

In the video, which surfaced on Monday, voices can be heard discussing whether to open fire at a Palestinian standing close to a fence. After the shooter opens fire, knocking the man to the ground, one of the voices says in Hebrew, "Wow. What a video! Yes! That son of a bitch."

The video's release comes at a highly sensitive time for Israel's military, which is under increasing international scrutiny for its use of live fire on the Gaza border. At least 31 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more wounded following the outbreak of protests and clashes at the border since March 30.

Saeb Erekat, a top official with the Palestinian Authority, has described the shootings as "extrajudicial killings."

There have been no critical Israeli casualties.

Read more: Israel-Gaza border: Protests turn fatal

Screenshot of video showing Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinian at the Gaza border (timesofisrael.com)

The video shows an Israeli soldier open fire on what appears to be an unassuming Palestinian standing close to the Gaza border fence

Israeli ministers praise shooter

After the authenticity of the video was confirmed, Lieberman told reporters that the sniper "deserves a medal" for shooting the Palestinian, but that the solider who recorded the incident should be demoted.

The military said the unauthorized filming and distribution of the material would be dealt with accordingly.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party also justified the shooter's behavior, telling army radio: "Judging soldiers because they are not expressing themselves elegantly while they are defending our borders is not serious."

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan downplayed the significance of the video, telling local media that the video "doesn't show gunfire at everyone, but at a terrorist who approaches the barrier in an unauthorized zone coming from an area controlled by Hamas terrorists."

On the Palestinian side, however, senior official Hanan Ashrawi said the video showed what Palestinians have long decried as Israeli soldiers' everyday behavior on the Gaza border, "but nobody has been listening."

An unwelcome reminder

For both sides of the conflict, the incident presented a stark reminder of a 2016 video filmed by a human rights group that showed an Israeli soldier shooting a prone Palestinian assailant in the head without any apparent provocation.

The Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, was convicted of manslaughter but the case highlighted Israel's public divide between those who denounced the killing and those who believed it was justified.

Read more: What it means to be a soldier in Israel

Several right-wing Israeli politicians called for Azaria to be pardoned, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was eventually released after serving half of an 18-month prison sentence.

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dm/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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