Israeli minister defends soldiers filmed cheering after shooting Palestinian

Israeli minister defends soldiers filmed cheering after shooting Palestinian
The Israeli military's promise to 'thoroughly investigate' a leaked video showing a young Palestinian shot by a sniper in Gaza to the sound of cheers has been slammed as inconsequential.
3 min read
10 April, 2018
Snipers on the Gaza border are known to shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians [Getty]
The Israeli military is reportedly investigating a video that surfaced on Monday purporting to show a group of Israeli soldiers cheering after a sniper shoots an unarmed Palestinian near the Gaza border fence.

The video, which Israel's army confirmed on Tuesday was authentic but alleged the shooting followed riots and warnings from troops, shows a young man standing on his own near the fence. The sniper breathes heavily as he aims and shoots him, at which point the group of soldiers cheer as the young man falls to the ground.

According to a translation of the video by Haaretz, a voice is heard asking: "Do you have a bullet in the barrel?" and, "is it on him?"

A second voice then says: "I can't see because of the wire", noting that "there's a little boy there".

As the sniper's bullet hits the boy, someone shouts "Wow, what a video! Yes!" adding: "Son of a bitch. What a video, here, run and get him out of there. Of course I filmed it."

Someone else later says "Wow, someone was hit in the head," "what a legendary video," "he flew in the air," and "get out, you sons of bitches."

The leaked clip, recorded on December 22 in the area of Kissufim near the Gaza Strip, has drawn a mix of defence and condemnation from the Israeli political sphere. Far-right Minister of Education Naftali Bennett defended the soldiers, and decried those who "sit in Tel Aviv and condemn the soldiers" as "not serious". 

"We are starting to judge soldiers based on the quality of their speech and whether it sounds nice or not?" he told Army Radio on Tuesday. "Really?"

Israel's defence minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the soldier who carried out the shooting saying he "deserves a medal" - then adding the soldier who recorded the incident should be demoted.

Other Israeli politicians professed shock and disappointment at the actions of the army that go against its so-called "moral values", despite such incidents occuring frequently.

Ayman Odeh, an Arab Israeli member of Knesset tweeted on Monday: "A video that horrifies the mind, calls of joy at [taking] a life, appears an execution of someone who did not pose a threat to anyone." 

During the Great Return March protests of the past few weeks, 31 Palestinians were killed and some 1,300 injured from live ammunition alone, despite the vast majority of them demonstrating peacefully and unarmed.

Many observers however have slammed the promise of an investigation as "meaningless and "lip service", reiterating that Israeli soldiers routinely shoot to kill Palestinians who pose no threat, and will never face punishment for it.

Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence - which collects Israeli soldiers' testimonies on atrocities and abuses they witnessed in the army - slammed the claim the video was from "a number of months ago", a time when tensions on the Gaza border have been high.

"It isn't from several months ago; it has been like this for 51 years," the group told The Times of Israel