Israel drops investigation into army colonel’s killing of Palestinian teen

Palestinians carry the body of Muhammed al-Kasbah, 17, who was killed by Israeli soldiers, during his funeral procession on July 3, 2015

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The legal division of the Israeli army closed on Sunday an investigation into the killing of a Palestinian teenager last summer by a senior Israeli commander, in a decision Israeli rights group B’Tselem has termed “an integral part” of the Israeli army’s “whitewash mechanism” of its own crimes.Colonel Yisrael Shomer shot and killed Muhammad Hani al-Kasbah, 17, with bullets in the head and chest on July 3, after the teenager allegedly threw stones at an Israeli military vehicle close to the Qalandiya checkpoint, south of Ramallah.“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,” the Israeli army said in a statement on Sunday.“Col. Shomer 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.”Although the Israeli army initially claimed Shomer had acted in self-defense, a video released shortly after al-Kasbah’s death by B’Tselem showed al-Kasbah initially running towards the military jeep to throw a stone at it before fleeing from the Israeli forces.A field investigation by Palestinian rights group Al-Haq at the time revealed that Israeli soldiers had “arbitrarily shot and killed Muhammad, who posed no threat to the Israeli soldiers’ lives at the time of the shooting.”Al-Haq rejected not only that al-Kasbah had posed a threat to the soldiers’ lives but also that the Israeli soldiers had adequately warned the teenager, adding that al-Kasbah’s upper-body wounds “demonstrated an intent to kill.”Al-Kasbah’s two brothers Yasser and Samer had been killed by Israeli forces in the Qalandiya refugee camp in May 2002.“The MAG’s (Military Advocate General) 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, all in the interest of providing impunity to members of the security forces who unlawfully killed Palestinians,” B’Tselem said in a statement released on Sunday evening.“This decision is an integral part of the whitewash mechanism which is Israel’s military investigative system,” the statement added.Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli politician and Yisrael Beitenu party leader Avigdor Lieberman hailed the investigation’s closure.“The time has come that everyone should know that the blood of Israeli soldiers is not free,” the Israeli newspaper quoted him as saying.Palestinians and human rights workers charge Israeli forces with excessive and often fatal use of force on a regular basis, and incidents documented on video have in the past been disregarded by Israeli investigations as lone-wolf incidents.The Israeli court system has gained international criticism for a longstanding policy of immunity for Israeli forces, while Palestinians hold widespread distrust for the system.According to Israeli NGO Yesh Din, only 1.4 percent of complaints submitted to the Israeli Military Police Criminal Investigations Division between 2010 and 2013 led to an indictment.A joint investigation by B’Tselem and Israeli rights group Hamoked earlier this year reported that Israel’s court system routinely postpones or slows down investigations regarding violations against Palestinians with the intention of pushing families or individuals to eventually drop their case.

(Source / 11.04.2016)

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