Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the soldier caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian in the head. The victim was already on the ground when the fatal rounds were fired.
The incident happened last Thursday. Israeli soldiers shot and wounded two Palestinians, alleging that they had stabbed one of their colleagues in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, causing him light injuries. According to Israeli army sources, one of the Palestinians died immediately and the other was wounded but alive until another soldier shot him in the head. This was all caught on camera by a Palestinian working with the Israeli rights group B'Tselem, which released the film of the "execution" with a strong condemnation.
The video went viral on social media and sparked a great deal of international and Israeli condemnation. The soldier in question was detained and Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon vowed that the incident would be treated with the "utmost severity".
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Although Netanyahu condemned the execution on the day that it happened, during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday he defended the soldier. He described the army's action as "ethical" and called any criticism "outrageous and unacceptable".
"The soldiers of the IDF, our children, maintain high ethical values while courageously fighting against bloodthirsty murderers under difficult operational conditions," claimed the prime minister. "We must all support the IDF chief of staff, the IDF and our soldiers, who safeguard our security."
According to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the soldier in question is not a murderer. "Have we lost our minds? We are at war, a war against brutal terrorism." However, Defence Minister Ya'alon lashed out at his cabinet colleague. Politicians offering unconditional support to the soldier were motivated by "populist" considerations, he said, "at the price of harming the military, as well as Israel's national resilience."
A poll conducted by Israel's Channel Two TV found that 57 per cent of those taking part opposed any investigation of the incident. Just 32 per cent agreed that the soldier should be arrested and investigated over the execution.
Commenting on the incident, Palestinians said that the soldier clearly felt emboldened enough to shoot the victim knowing that a camera was present. "How many extrajudicial killings are taking place away from the gaze of NGOs and the media?" they asked.