Was a pitchfork attack thwarted? Many serious question marks are brought up by the IDF's initial investigation into the functioning of the soldiers involved in Sunday's incident next to Awatra in which two Palestinians carrying a pitchfork were killed by IDF soldiers.
At the end of the debriefings on the incident and on the incident that took place on Saturday in which two other Palestinians were killed during a protest near Nablus, investigation material will be passed on to the military prosecutor, where it will be decided whether the military police will launch an investigation.
Just 24 hours after the incident at Awarta, it is already clear to the IDF that the incident is not as clear cut as described by the soldiers, who said that the Palestinians made an attack and they returned fire.
Palestinian confonting soldier Saturday during protest near Nablus (Photo: AFP)
"Under the circumstances, it is likely that the company commander acted appropriately because he felt in danger," military sources on Monday. However, they were willing to admit: "At the end of the day, when you look at all the characteristics of the event, it perhaps could have been concluded differently."
The initial investigation reveals that two Palestinians, around the age of 18, were spotted by soldiers in an area that necessitates coordination ahead of time, after being notified by Israeli civilians. Four soldiers from the Nachshon Battalion under the command of the company commander arrived at the scene.
The IDF reports – according to which one of the Palestinians tried to attack the soldiers with a pitchfork or hoe – were shown to be inaccurate. The two Palestinians were indeed in possession of farming tools. However, they were reportedly left on the ground beside them. As the two were asked what they were doing in the area and asked to hand over their details, the company commander reportedly heard one of them mutter something that sounded like a prayer. According to the debriefing, he then attacked the soldier with a broken piece of glass that he allegedly picked up from the ground.
The company commander turned around and fired two or three rounds at the Palestinian. The company commander then noticed that the other Palestinian man started moving in a threatening manner with a syringe he held in his hand. The soldier then fired two more bullets.
Estimate: They weren't terrorists
The IDF started investigating the incident on Sunday night. Initial details show that the soldiers at first did not treat the two Palestinians as suspicious. Though they separated between the two, they decided not to handcuff them. The prevailing estimate is that they were not terrorists, but two farmers who panicked when facing the soldiers, thus prompting them to try and attack.
Military sources noted that the company commander did feel threatened, and, therefore, acted as he did. "The situation in the West Bank is complex, and on more than one occasion, someone who seemed innocent within a second turned into a terrorist seeking to murder," the sources noted.
However, the sources acquiesced that the incident could have ended differently if the deployment had been different. "As a rule, the forces operating in the field are well aware of the level of force to be used and its consequences," they said. "There is no doubt that any event that ends like this does not contribute to the quiet."
Investigation of the two incidents is still underway.