Palestinian stabber killed in Hebron to undergo autopsy

Israeli soldiers remove the body of a Palestinian man shot after he stabbed and wounded a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Wissam Hashlamon/Flash90)


The autopsy of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, who was shot and killed by an IDF soldier on March 24 in Hebron, will take place Sunday, officials said.

Videos of the shooting of al-Sharif caused a firestorm in Israel, as the Palestinian appears to lie wounded on the ground when he is killed.

Minutes before the shooting, Al-Sharif and another Palestinian carried out a stabbing attack against soldiers guarding in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the West Bank city. One IDF soldier was moderately hurt in the attack.

The other Palestinian assailant was killed when troops shot at the two in an effort to stop the attack. Al-Sharif was wounded but not killed.

It is not clear why the soldier, who arrived on the scene several minutes after the stabbing incident, decided to shoot al-Sharif in the head.

IDF prosecutors say evidence points to the intention to kill al-Sharif despite the fact that the stabber had been subdued and lay apparently helpless on the ground. The soldier has argued that al-Sharif was moving, and said he believed the Palestinian could have been carrying an explosive vest or other device that posed a threat to bystanders.

According to prosecutors, the autopsy will provide critical evidence that may corroborate or undermine the soldier’s defense.

The High Court of Justice last week agreed to a request by al-Sharif’s family to allow a pathologist of the family’s choosing to attend the autopsy.

The soldier was arrested on the day of the shooting. On Thursday, prosecutors said they would ask for a lessened charge of manslaughter. IDF prosecutor Lt. Col. Adoram Reigler said “significant developments” in recent days necessitated the downgraded charges.

The IDF soldier who shot a disarmed Palestinian attacker in the head in Hebron appears in Qastina military court on March 31, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)

The IDF soldier who shot a disarmed Palestinian attacker in the head in Hebron appears in Qastina military court on March 31, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Though he did not detail what the new developments were, Reigler said the soldier is suspected of shooting the assailant “deliberately and unnecessarily.”

The soldier, who has not been named by the army but whose identity has been shared on Palestinian and pro-Hamas websites, was released from Military Police custody on Friday on the order of the Jaffa court and moved to supervised detention at a military base.

The prosecution has said that the soldier was not cooperating with investigators, even though his lawyers initially said he had promised to reenact the shooting and confront the soldiers who testified against him, the Ynet news website said.

“He refused to hold a reenactment or confrontations (except with one soldier with whom he actually had no dispute), and even indicated that he did not remember things that were said by witnesses at the scene,” said the Military Advocate General’s appeal of the soldier’s release.

The appeal added that “the soldier claimed several times during investigation that the attacker tried to reach for a knife that was ‘within reaching distance,’ while the video [of the incident] paints a different picture, that the knife was a significant distance from the attacker, who was himself in serious condition. He gave evasive answers during investigation whenever he was confronted with anomalies in his version of events. The soldier’s [shifting] version raises serious doubts about the credibility of the defense arguments, to say the least.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday urged the family of the soldier to trust in the Military Police investigation currently underway.

“I heard your words and as the father of a soldier, I understand your distress,” Netanyahu told the father in a phone call.

“I trust the IDF, the chief of staff and the investigation 100% and I think that you too should trust the commanders and the investigation,” he said. “I am convinced that the investigation will be professional and fair toward your son.”

An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot a disarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B'Tselem)

An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot a disarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B’Tselem)

In the days following the incident, senior officials, including Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, publicly distanced themselves from the soldier, insisting his actions violated the IDF’s code of ethics and sparking a political battle with far-right politicians who decried the rush to “convict in the media.”

At a press conference held at their Ramle home earlier this week, the soldier’s family angrily denounced his “lynching” in the media and said Israeli leaders were too quick to judge him before he had an opportunity to defend himself.

timesofisrael

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