Jerusalem: An Israeli colonel has been cleared of any criminal charges after shooting dead a Palestinian teen who stoned his jeep in the West Bank last year, the military said Monday.
A rights group that distributed a video showing the shooting denounced the decision, which comes amid controversy over a separate killing of a Palestinian by an Israeli soldier last month.
Colonel Israel Shomer had been under investigation for the July 3 shooting near Qalandia checkpoint, south of Ramallah, that killed Mohammad Kasba, 17.
The army said at the time Shomer and another soldier had opened fire when the vehicle was damaged “and in response to the imminent danger”.
But a video distributed by the B’Tselem human rights group appeared to dispute the claim, showing the shots were fired at Kasba while he seemed to be running away after stoning the jeep.
The army said a Palestinian had thrown a rock through the windshield of Shomer’s vehicle and that in response the officer “exited his vehicle and fired into the air and towards the lower extremities of the assailant.”
“However, due to the reality of the operational situation, the shots resulted in the death of the assailant,” it said in a statement.
“The military advocate general concluded that the shooting of the perpetrator was not criminal and the event does not justify taking legal action against the officer.”
B’Tselem condemned the army’s decision, which it called “an integral part of the whitewash mechanism which is Israel’s military investigative system.”
It said the “assertion that the firing was legal, since the officer claimed that he aimed at the youth’s legs but missed, clearly indicates the investigative system’s willingness to ignore the law and the open-fire regulations.”
The decision comes with tensions high over the actions of another Israeli soldier, who was caught on video shooting a Palestinian assailant in the head on March 24 as he lay on the ground wounded and posing no apparent danger.
B’Tselem also distributed the video in that case in Hebron in the occupied West Bank and it was widely shared online.
The soldier’s lawyers say he thought the Palestinian could have been carrying explosives, though he had reportedly already been checked for a suicide belt.
The Palestinian had along with another man stabbed an Israeli solider minutes earlier before being shot and wounded, the army says.
The soldier, whose bullet to the head killed the Palestinian, has been arrested and could face charges of manslaughter.
Top military brass have strongly condemned his actions, though far-right protesters and politicians have called for his release.