Israeli military confirmed on Tuesday the authenticity of a video posted online over the weekend showing the shooting of a Palestinian protester in Gaza by an Israeli sniper and the cheers of his fellow soldiers. However, the Israeli authorities later cleared the sniper.
An Israel Defense Forces statement said the shooting caught on video had not taken place during the recent wave of protests in Gaza, during which Israeli snipers have killed at least 27 protesters. The incident took place on December 22, the army said, during protests in Gaza over Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The distressing video, which has been subtitled by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was apparently recorded through binoculars or a gun scope, and captures the soldier who recorded it shouting as the protester is hit, “Yes! Son of a bitch!”
As protesters rush to evacuate the man who was hit, the soldier who made the recording boasts, “What a fabulous video!” Another soldier can be heard saying, “Wow, somebody was hit in the head.” Moments later, when one soldier says that he didn’t see what happened, a colleague laughs as he says the protester who was shot “flew in the air.”
Despite the claim that someone was shot in the head, and the fact that two protesters were killed on that day, the army said its preliminary investigation indicated that the protester in the video had been hit in the leg, after other means of dispersing “violent riots” in a part of Gaza adjacent to the Israeli community of Kissufim had failed.
The soldier who recorded the shooting, the military added, was not part of the unit that fired on the unarmed protester and now faces punishment for “unauthorized filming” and “distribution” of the video. The banter and comments heard on the recording, the army said, “do not suit the degree of restraint expected of IDF soldiers and will be dealt [with] by commanders accordingly.”
Despite the army’s statement of disapproval, senior Israeli officials went out of their way to defend the behavior of the soldiers caught on video laughing and cheering.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Twitter that he, too, celebrated the shooting, even if the fact that it was recorded was unfortunate. “The Gaza sniper deserves a decoration, and the photographer a demerit,” he wrote in Hebrew, along with a still frame from the video.
“We have reached a level of insanity and delusion,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Israeli radio. “To take a situation from the battlefield, when soldiers are under stress and explosive devices are being thrown at them and attempts are being made to infiltrate, and to take their human response and judge them from the armchairs in Tel Aviv?”
“What’s all the fuss about?” asked Oren Hazan, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. “Anyone who approaches the fence, armed or not, is gonna get it. As it should be!”
Yousef Munayyer, who directs the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, pointed out how extreme Israel’s rules of engagement now are, in permitting lethal fire to be used against protesters who even approach its perimeter fence around Gaza.
Israeli army clears sniper filmed shooting unarmed Palestinian
‘The sniper failed. I was only injured,’ says Gaza resident Tamer Abu Daqqa, who said he did not constitute a threat when he was shot
An Israeli sniper who shot a Palestinian on the border with Gaza has been cleared of wrongdoing by a military inquiry, but those who filmed him and cheered at his shot are to be disciplined.
The footage from last Friday was shared online, sparking further denunciation of the Israeli army’s open-fire rules against Palestinians.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli army cleared the sniper of wrongdoing in a preliminary inquiry into the incident, but said the soldiers filming and heard cheering in the video would face “disciplinary proceedings”.
“As for the unapproved filming of an operational incident, distribution of the filmed material and the expressions heard in it, it should be noted that this is not the spirit and the level of restraint expected from IDF (the Israeli army) soldiers and it will be handled appropriately on a disciplinary level,” Haaretz quoted the findings of the inquiry as stating.
As of publication time, the Israeli army had not responded to a request for comment from Middle East Eye on when such disciplinary proceedings would take place, nor on the kind of disciplinary measures typically implemented in similar cases.
Tamer Abu Daqqa, 28, said he recognised himself in the video, which was filmed on 22 December in southern Gaza, particularly due to the red jacket he was wearing.
AFP could not independently verify Abu Daqqa’s claim, but separate footage from that day shows him in hospital after being shot in the leg, which is still in plaster four months after the incident.
Abu Daqqa said he had thrown stones at Israeli soldiers over the border during the day, but denied being armed or posing any threat at the time of the gunshot.
“When they shot me I was not throwing stones. I was yelling to friends near the fence to leave and go back to our homes,” he told AFP at his home in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army said a single bullet was fired toward the Palestinian “suspected of organising and leading this incident while he was a few meters from the fence,” wounding him in the leg.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the sniper, but criticised the soldier who filmed the incident.
Israel’s military on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of the video, but alleged the shooting followed “riots” and warnings from troops.
Palestinians have long accused the Israeli army of fostering impunity among soldier. Israeli NGO B’Tselem has estimated that 97 percent of complaints levied by the organisation against Israeli soldiers over violent acts targeting Palestinians did not lead to an indictment.
The incident took place during protests in Gaza sparked by US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which enraged Palestinians who saw the move as proof of the American administration’s bias in favour of Israel.
The video came at a highly sensitive time for Israel’s military, which has faced mounting criticism over its use of live fire in Gaza Strip, where at least 31 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured since late March while participating in the “Great March of Return”.
Demonstrators in the besieged enclave, where almost 1.3 million of the small territory’s two million inhabitants are refugees, have been demanding their right to return to their pre-1948 homes.
The six-week protest, which began on 30 March marking Palestinian Land Day, is set to end on 15 May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The European Union, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and others have called for an independent investigation into the killings – which included journalist Yasser Murtaja – during the last few weeks’ protests.
The Abu Daqqa video, though it dates from several months earlier, led to fresh questions about Israel’s rules of engagement.
Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem said earlier this week that shooting incidents similar to what is seen in the video have “occurred hundreds of times over the past few weeks in the Gaza Strip, causing death and injuries.”
Abu Daqqa said the video showed the Israelis were “terrorists”.
“In the video they laugh at me and insult me. If they were men they would face me without weapons as I faced them,” he said.
“I will continue to demonstrate for our land and our rights even if they injure me in every part of my body.”