Israeli PM goes soft on soldier who shot Palestinian

Jerusalem, March 27 (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu softened his stance on Sunday against a soldier accused of killing a Palestinian attacker at point blank while lying wounded on the ground.

Netanyahu said the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) “maintain high ethical values” and rejected those who challenge “the IDF’s morality”, at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Xinhua news agency cited a statement from his office as saying.

“Any challenge to the morality of the IDF is outrageous and unacceptable,” Netanyahu said.

He also said that the soldiers were dealing with “bloodthirsty murderers”, talking about Palestinian attackers, and added that the military’s investigation of the incident should take into account the “difficult operational conditions” the soldiers faced.

“I am certain that… the inquiry takes into account all conditions. We must all support the IDF and our soldiers who safeguard our security,” Netanyahu said.

On Thursday, a volunteer for the B’tselem organisation, an Israeli organisation advocating for human rights in the occupied territories, captured footage of a soldier shooting a Palestinian attacker in the head after an attack in Hebron.

The graphic footage showed that the soldier shooting the Palestinian at point blank while he was lying on the ground injured and was unarmed.

The IDF has suspended the soldier and said he would be facing murder charges amid a military police investigation.

It took place shortly after two Palestinian attackers stabbed an Israeli soldier and injured him lightly. Soldiers at the scene shot them, according to the IDF. The two died eventually.

Back on Thursday, Netanyahu said that this event does not reflect on the ethical stance of the IDF, but he had since slightly altered his position, amid voices of right-wingers who defended the soldier.

Netanyahu also said on Saturday that the soldiers who find themselves in “murderous terror attacks” deserve support.

The soldier’s family and supporters claimed over the weekend that the soldier feared the attacker had an explosive device on him.

Furthermore, the soldier won the support of Israeli right-wing ministers like nationalist Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who said the claims against the soldier are “absurd” as “we are at war”.

A total of 28 Israelis have been killed in a wave of violence which started in October, in shooting, stabbing and car-ramming attacks.

Nearly 190 Palestinians were killed during the period, some during clashes in protests with Israeli security forces, while many others were gunned down at scenes of attack after allegedly carrying, or trying to carry out, attacks against Israelis.

Israel faced criticism from human rights groups, the Palestinians, Europe and the US for shooting and killing Palestinian attackers even though they no longer posed a threat at the scenes of the attacks.

Recently, Israeli officials locked horns with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who called to investigate Israel’s “extra-judicial” killings of Palestinian attackers.

Israeli officials in response said she is “biased” against Israel and “anti-Semitic.”

Israeli leaders say the reason for the wave of unrest is the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to violence, whereas the Palestinians say it is the result of frustration amid 49 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, where they wish to establish a Palestinian state.

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