Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter

Published 19.04.2016 00:00

Israeli Army Radio said a military court has indicted a soldier for manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank. The radio said Monday that the soldier, whose name was not released under a gag order, has also been charged with inappropriate military conduct. The shooting took place last month in Hebron, a West Bank city that has been a focal point of a seven-month wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Initially, the military had said two Palestinians stabbed and wounded a soldier before troops killed the pair. A video later showed one of the attackers still alive before a soldier shot him in the head.

The soldier was initially held on a murder warrant. The lighter manslaughter charge, reflecting a view that the killing was not premeditated, could spell a jail term of up to 20 years. "The terrorist ... was left lying on the ground, still alive, and did not present any immediate and tangible danger to the civilians and soldiers around him," the manslaughter indictment said. It said the accused handed his helmet to a comrade, cocked his rifle, walked a few steps toward the Palestinian and "fired one bullet at the terrorist's head", causing his death. Such action, the charge sheet said, violated rules of engagement and had no ‘operational justification'.

An opinion poll last month found 57 percent of Israelis think the soldier should never been arrested. His supporters, including some rightist politicians, have demonstrated for his release. Almost 60,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that he be decorated for heroism. The soldier's family and supporters planned to hold a rally, under the slogan of "you don't abandon a warrior", in a main square in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Two popular Israeli singers initially said they would perform at the gathering but later withdrew, saying they feared the event would have political overtones and be seen as a protest against military authorities.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said Monday it has discovered and destroyed a tunnel burrowing from Gaza into Israel, the first tunnel to be discovered since Israel's 2014 war with the militant Hamas movement that runs the coastal strip. Israeli troops detected the tunnel's exit, still underground, several days ago, according to military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, who added he believes the tunnel was built after the summer war. It extended several hundred meters from Gaza into Israel and was lined with cement and outfitted with electricity, ventilation and rail tracks to cart away dirt from digging, Lerner said. It was not clear when exactly the tunnel was destroyed.

In 2014, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels Hamas had dug under the border. More than 2,200 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them civilians, were killed in the 50-day summer attacks. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed. Hamas vowed to rebuild the tunnel network.

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