An IDF soldier guarding the West Bank checkpoint of Bekaot shot and killed a Palestinian man despite observing that he was unarmed, an initial investigation of Sunday's incident showed.
It appears that eight bullets were fired at the 20-year-old Tubas resident, Mohammad Dragma, when more soldiers rushed to help the first soldier in the shooting.
The Habikaa Bridgade, headed by Colonel Yohai Ben Yishai, was appointed to investigate the incident. The Duchifat Battalion, which was securing the northern Jordan Valley area, was debriefed, but questions surrounding the event continued to mount.
Dragma reportedly acted suspiciously when he bypassed the line of people waiting at the checkpoint and arrived at a spot that was closed for traffic; he did not respond when the soldiers ordered him to stop. Even after being shot in the leg, he did not lie down as he was ordered.
Soldier shot at debilitated Palestinian
The initial inquiry also shows that the first soldier that reached Dragma saw that he was not carrying a gun, but only glass bottle. Regardless of this observation the soldier chose to shoot at the man's upper body. During the questioning the soldier said that he felt his life was in danger when he decided to fire his weapon. Two of his battalion companions, who joined him in the shooting, admitted that they were not in the danger zone, but just wished to aid their friend.
Several violent events have taken place at the Bekaot checkpoint in recent months, mainly attempted smuggling of explosives. However, IDF officials acknowledge that the tension warrants the soldiers to be especially careful to distinguish between real danger and a false alarm, based on a suspect's behavior, his distance and the items he is carrying.
"Even a stone can be a lethal weapon if it is pelted from a short distance, but obviously if a Palestinian is located a few dozen meters away and the danger is not real, every other measure should be taken to avoid pulling the trigger," one official said.
The investigation is expected to be completed within a few days, and its findings are to be presented to the 162nd Division commander, Brigadier General Agai Yehezkel, and Central Command Chief Major-General Avi Mizrahi.
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