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Anger erupts over video of Palestinian shot by Israeli sniper

The footage shows Israeli soldiers celebrating as a sniper shoots a Palestinian in Gaza, dropping him to the ground.

Israeli sniper

Palestinian officials and human rights activists have sharply criticised Israeli support for the actions of Israeli snipers filmed celebrating after shooting a Palestinian standing inside the Gaza Strip.

In the video clip, which was first posted on Monday and was widely shared on social media, the soldiers are heard discussing opening fire on what seemed to be Palestinians posing no immediate threat, nor engaging in any hostile acts near the fence.

A shooter then appeared to open fire on one, knocking the person to the ground.

"Wow. What a video! Yes! That son of a b***h," one of the voices behind the camera is heard saying in Hebrew.

It was not possible to determine whether the person shot in the video died.

Israel's military said the incident in the video "apparently" dated back several months.

The footage comes at a time when Israel's military faces mounting criticism over its use of live fire on the Gaza Strip border and the killing of at least 31 Palestinians protesting there in two mass demonstrations in as many weeks. More than 1,400 others were also wounded.

Palestinian condemnation

The video clip elicited sharp criticism from Palestinian officials, with Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, saying in a statement on Tuesday that it represented "hate and contempt" for a Palestinian's life.

This, he said, was "a reflection of the cruel mentality of Israel's military occupation and the drive of its systematic shoot-to-kill policy against the Palestinian civilians, in defiance of their very existence on the land of Palestine and in a flagrant violation of all international and humanitarian norms and laws".

The video drew similar condemnation from Jamal Zahalka, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

"This recording is an example that proves the rule. This is a killing spree commanded by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, [Defence Minister Avigdor] Lieberman and [Chief of General Staff Gadi] Eisenkot," said Zahalka, chairman of Joint List.

"No wonder the soldiers behave this way when ministers, legislators, the media and public opinion are party to the jubilation at the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza," he said.  

Israeli support

However, Israeli right-wing politicians have expressed their support for the shooting.

"The sniper deserves a commendation, the photographer a court martial," Lieberman said, according to Israeli media.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, of the far-right Jewish Home party, also justified the behaviour depicted in the video.

"Judging soldiers because they are not expressing themselves elegantly while they are defending our borders is not serious," Bennett told army radio.

Meanwhile, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan sought to downplay the actions of those in the video: "We are going overboard with this video," said Erdan, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

"It doesn't show gunfire at everyone, but at a terrorist who approaches the barrier in an unauthorised zone coming from an area controlled by Hamas terrorists," he told public radio.

"I am convinced that everything is OK," he added, while also speaking of a "human reaction" by the soldiers confronted with a "tense situation".

But Yael Stein, of the B'Tselem human rights group, said that the delight the soldiers take in hitting their target does not change the fact that the Israeli leadership will not consider their actions unlawful.

"You keep hearing that anybody who is coming close to the fence will be shot, and anybody who is participating in those demonstrations 'is part of Hamas, they want to destroy Israel, everybody is a terrorist, the demonstrations are totally illegitimate,'" said Stein. 

"So, if the public debate here that is being conducted and being led by the political level is on that level, showing the Palestinians as not deserving the same rights as any other person, it's not surprising that this is the result."

Elor Azaria case

For Israelis and Palestinians, the footage was also a reminder of another video from March 2016 that showed an Israeli soldier shooting dead a prone Palestinian.

Caught on camera by a human rights group and spread widely online, it showed the 21-year-old Palestinian Abdel al-Fattah al-Sharif lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.

Some 11 minutes after the initial shooting, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.

Azaria was convicted of manslaughter after a trial that captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion between those who denounce the shooting and others who say it was justified.

Top military brass denounced Azaria's actions, but right-wing politicians, including Netanyahu, called for him to be pardoned.

Azaria was initially sentenced to 18 months in prison, but his sentence was later reduced to nine months.


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