57% of Israelis support soldier who killed Palestinian
The survey, conducted by a national Israeli television channel, showed 57 percent of Israelis opposed the arrest of the soldier who killed 21-year-old Abed Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron last Thursday.
An extra 42 percent rallied behind the soldier who they believed took "responsible" actions in shooting dead the Palestinian while only 5 percent of Israelis described the incident as murder.
Video footage of Thursday's killing in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron spread widely online, sparking debate among the general public on both sides of the conflict as the soldier appeared in court for the killing.
Large sections of Israeli society have defended the soldier with some hailing him as a hero as they called for his release outside the courts.
"I'm not determining if [the soldier's] conduct was correct or wrong,” Avigdor Lieberman, the former foreign minister said. "What's clear is I prefer a soldier who made a mistake and stayed alive over a soldier who hesitates and is murdered by a terrorist."
The shooting, described as a "war crime" by Palestinian health minister, Jawad Awwad, took place when two Palestinians allegedly stabbed and wounded another Israeli soldier at a military checkpoint.
The unnamed soldier at the core of the case – an army medic – then entered the scene 11 minutes later and shot al-Sharif in the head as he lay on the ground, wounded from an earlier shot.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov last week strongly condemned the killing which he described as an "apparent extra-judicial execution".
"This was a gruesome, immoral and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation," Mladenov said.
The assault is the latest in a six month wave of violence that has left about 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead.
Israel blames the attacks on Palestinian incitement while Palestinians lay the blame on frustration stemming from nearly five decades of Israeli military occupation.
"These executions are not isolated events and Israel must be held accountable for committing these crimes," Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's secretary general said.