B’Tse­lem: 2nd sol­dier ex­e­cuted an­other as­sailant in He­bron case

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB and MAAYAN GROISMAN

In a stun­ning devel­op­ment, B’Tse­lem an­nounced on Mon­day that it has in­ter­viewed two wit­nesses who said a sec­ond IDF sol­dier ex­e­cuted an­other ter­ror­ist dur­ing what has be­come known as the He­bron shooter in­ci­dent.

Sgt. Elor Azaria is cur­rently on trial for man­slaugh­ter for the March 24 shoot­ing of Ab­del Fatah al-Sharif who at­tacked IDF sol­diers, but was shot and wounded. Sev­eral min­utes later, Azaria shot and killed the wounded and im­mo­bile ter­ror­ist.

The shoot­ing, doc­u­mented on a video dis­trib­uted by B’Tse­lem, went vi­ral on­line and trig­gered a na­tional de­bate over Azaria’s guilt or

in­no­cence.

A sec­ond ter­ror­ist, Ramzi al-Kas­rawi, was also shot and killed dur­ing the in­ci­dent. Un­til now the as­sump­tion has been that al-Kas­rawi was shot in self-de­fense, while the sit­u­a­tion was still dy­namic and he was at­tack­ing the sol­diers.

But ac­cord­ing to the two He­bron wit­nesses in­ter­viewed by B’Tse­lem, Nur Abu Ayasha and Amani Abu Ayasha, al-Kas­rawi was shot and im­mo­bi­lized, and then only later shot in the head. If true, the sum­mary ex­e­cu­tion would con­sti­tute a war crime.

The IDF re­sponded that B’tse­lem’s claims “do not match the find­ings of our op­er­a­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and con­tra­dict the in­for­ma­tion the IDF has on the in­ci­dent.”

The IDF stated that the shots fired at al-Kas­rawi were nec­es­sary in or­der to “re­move the threat while he was at­tack­ing the sol­diers with a knife.”

At press time, it was un­clear to whether the IDF would carry out a sup­ple­men­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the new al­le­ga­tions, or whether it would rest its con­clu­sions on the al­ready com­pleted probe.

Seek­ing to con­firm the new al­le­ga­tions, The Jerusalem Post spoke to the wit­nesses on Mon­day. Nur Abu Aysha said, “I was 10 me­ters away from the scene. I saw Kas­rawi lay­ing on the ground bleed­ing, and sud­denly an IDF of­fi­cer came at the place and shot him in the head. Kas­rawi was shot af­ter the first at­tempt to neu­tral­ize Sharif.”

Amani Abu Aysha told the Post, “I saw Ramzi Qas­rawi lay­ing on the ground bleed­ing, mov­ing slowly, when one sol­dier came and shot him four times. I do not re­mem­ber if there was a knife nearby.”

It is un­clear why the al­le­ga­tions have been made now, nearly six weeks af­ter the in­ci­dent – a time lag which raises sus­pi­cions about the gen­uine­ness of the claims.

B’Tse­lem ini­tially ex­plained it only re­cently gained ac­cess to the area where the wit­nesses live since the area has been closed off by the IDF for months.

Pressed by the Post, a B’Tse­lem spokes­woman con­ceded that the wit­nesses could have been reached by tele­phone or other forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In­deed the tes­ti­mony by the Abu Ayashas is not new. In a March 28 in­ter­view with the Pales­tinian news agency Maan four days af­ter the in­ci­dent, Nur Abu Aysha said, “Af­ter an IDF of­fi­cer shot two times on Sharif’s belly, he headed to Qas­rawi and shot him on his head two times.” His ac­count is es­sen­tially the same story he told to the Post. Azaria’s lawyer, Ilan Katz, told the

Post that if the new al­le­ga­tions are true, “it would sig­nal con­ceal­ment of in­for­ma­tion by the pros­e­cu­tion.”

Katz has been ar­gu­ing on be­half of Azaria that the IDF is ar­bi­trar­ily pros­e­cut­ing him, and that nu­mer­ous cases oc­curred where the army did not in­dict sol­diers for sim­i­lar con­duct.

The lat­est B’tse­lem al­le­ga­tions, if they prove true, would be an ev­i­den­tiary coup sup­port­ing Katz’s ar­gu­ment.

Last week, the Azaria trial opened as the IDF’s lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor tes­ti­fied that an am­bu­lance driver had moved a knife closer to the wounded Pales­tinian at­tacker’s body af­ter the shoot­ing, im­ply­ing he tam­pered with ev­i­dence to make the killing look more like self-de­fense.

Video footage that the pros­e­cu­tion un­veiled at the Jaffa Mil­i­tary Court hear­ing showed that the knife was three to four me­ters away, clearly out of reach of al-Sharif, both be­fore and af­ter the shoot­ing – un­til it was moved at an even later point.

The driver, Ofer Ohana, also was re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing many of the videos of the in­ci­dent. The mil­i­tary police in­ves­ti­ga­tor with the rank of ma­jor said that at one point Ohana’s video stopped, he moved the knife and then re­sumed video­ing.

Just prior to the ma­jor’s tes­ti­mony, the pros­e­cu­tion made its open­ing state­ment, in which Lt. Col. Na­dav Weiss­man slammed Azaria as having bro­ken with the IDF’s “fun­da­men­tal val­ues… re­gard­ing pu­rity of arms.”

He told the court mar­tial that it should con­vict Azaria of man­slaugh­ter since he ad­mits to al­most all of the facts in the case re­gard­ing his shoot­ing of al-Sharif, which shifts the bur­den of proof to the de­fense to prove self-de­fense.

Weiss­man fur­ther charged that Azaria re­peat­edly changed his ac­count of the in­ci­dent. •

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