Israeli Police Officer Who Shot Wounded Palestinian Suspect Could Face Charges

Israel’s justice ministry is considering an investigation of a police volunteer, based on a video that appears to show him firing at a suspect who was already subdued after a knife attack in Jaffa.

The body of a Palestinian attacker is illuminated in Tel Aviv Tuesday March 8, 2016. The man have stabbed a number of civilians in Jaffa before he was shot and killed by the police. (AP Photo/David Bachar) ****ISRAEL OUT***
The body of a Palestinian attacker is illuminated in Tel Aviv Tuesday March 8, 2016. The man have stabbed a number of civilians in Jaffa before he was shot and killed by the police. (AP Photo/David Bachar) ****ISRAEL OUT*** Photo: David Bachar/AP

Israeli and Palestinian journalists and rights activists are apparently not the only ones wondering if video recorded in the immediate aftermath of a knife attack in Israel showed the suspected attacker being executed by the police after he had already been subdued.

A division of Israel’s justice ministry that investigates police officers is reportedly examining the video, recorded by a witness to the mayhem near the seaside in Jaffa yesterday, when Bashar Masalha, a 22-year-old laborer from the West Bank, stabbed a dozen civilians, including an American tourist who died of his injuries and a fellow Palestinian. The 29-second clip shows the suspected attacker lying on the ground as two officers train their guns on him, and an unseen bystander urges one of them to shoot Masalha in the head.

According to Yaniv Kubovich of Haaretz, the Tel Aviv daily, one officer could be heard saying, “I neutralized him,” suggesting that the suspect was indeed no longer a threat. Moments later, however, a shot was fired, apparently by the second officer, an older police volunteer. The first officer can then be heard reproaching the volunteer, saying, “Yossi, enough — he is lying there neutralized, why are you shooting for no reason?”

Masalha, who could be seen slightly turning his head at the start of the clip, stopped moving after the shot was fired.

The incident follows the killing of more than a hundred other Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis in the past six months, many of them armed only with knives, leading rights advocates to ask if Israel has given tacit approval to extrajudicial killings.

Last month, for example, a 20-year-old Palestinian who stabbed paramilitary border police officers at an entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem was shot repeatedly after he had already fallen to the ground. The incident took place in front of a television crew from Al Jazeera, which recorded video of round after round being fired into the prone man’s body.

As the Electronic Intifada’s managing editor Maureen Clare Murphy reports, another extremely graphic video clip recorded yesterday in Petach Tikva, near Tel Aviv, showed Abd al-Rahman Radad, a 17-year-old Palestinian suspected of wounding an Israeli in a knife attack, bleeding to death after being overpowered by his victim and stabbed. “Die, you fucker, die, you son of a whore,” a man can be heard saying in Hebrew, before adding, “Don’t call an ambulance, let him die.”

The justice ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department told the Israeli news site Ynet that no decision had been made yet about whether to open a formal investigation into the Jaffa shooting. According to a description of the department’s remit on the ministry’s website, it is empowered “to examine suspicions of the commission of criminal offenses (only) where police personnel are suspected of committing them and where the penalty is in excess of one year’s imprisonment.”

Israel’s Channel 2 News reported on Thursday that the police volunteer who fired the shot had defended his conduct during questioning by internal affairs investigators, claiming that since the suspect was still moving and had a knife in his hand while lying on the ground, he still presented a threat.

Israel Hayom, the newspaper financed by the American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to relentlessly hype Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies, added a dose of sarcasm to its report on the possible inquiry. The video, the newspaper reported, “upset several left-wing activists, including Peace Now Director General Yariv Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer posted on Twitter: ‘In Petach Tikva and in Jaffa, videos show how the neutralization [of a terrorist] can turn into execution without trial. In the current situation, no media outlet dares to address this issue.’”

Dimi Reider, an Israeli journalist and blogger, noted that a police volunteer was interviewed by Israel’s Channel 10 News just after the incident in Jaffa, near where the shooting took place. Although it is not yet clear if this was the same volunteer who fired the shot, in the interview he did describe for the camera what a great feeling it was to dispatch a terrorist.

After viewing this interview, Peace Now’s director returned to Twitter to observe that a man who claims to have no greater pleasure than the shooting of a terrorist (after he has been disabled) should be in a police station as a prisoner, not a volunteer.

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