Israeli soldier who executed Palestinian to face manslaughter charge
An Israeli soldier caught on video executing a wounded Palestinian man as he lay on the ground is being investigated for manslaughter and not murder, the military said Thursday.
Prosecutors had reportedly first considered a murder charge against the 19-year-old soldier, but told a military court during a hearing Thursday that they were investigating him for manslaughter, Israeli media reported.
Prosecutors were also seeking to extend the remand of the soldier, who was arrested after the March 24 shooting. A decision had not yet been issued.
The lawyer for the soldier, who has not yet been charged, welcomed the prosecutors' move.
"The significance from our point of view is that, first of all, the prosecution has climbed down," Ilan Katz told Israeli army radio.
"I believe that in a short time that suspicion will also be dropped."
A 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.
|Netanyahu on Thursday also called the father of the soldier to express his sympathies and reassure him that his son will get a "professional and fair" trial.|
Video of the March 24 killing in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron spread widely online, sparking heated political debate.
It showed al-Sharif, who along with another man had allegedly stabbed a soldier minutes earlier, lying on the ground, apparently after being shot.
The soldier then shoots him again, in the head, without any apparent provocation.
The case has threatened to further provoke Israeli-Palestinian tensions amid a wave of violence that began in October.
Several hundreds of the soldier's supporters protested outside the military base where the court is located during a previous court hearing on Tuesday demanding his release.
Violence since October has left 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead.
Israeli forces have been accused of using excessive force in some cases, charges which they have firmly denied.
A letter from 11 US lawmakers in February that has recently come to light calling on the State Department to look into allegations of possible "extrajudicial killings" by Israel has received widespread attention in the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily to the letter, saying "where is the concern for the human rights of the many Israelis who've been murdered and maimed by these savage terrorists?"
Netanyahu on Thursday also called the father of the soldier to express his sympathies and reassure him that his son will get a "professional and fair" trial.