HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians after they attacked a soldier in the West Bank on Thursday, the military said, and one soldier was detained after being shown on video firing a round into the head of one of the assailants as he lay on the ground.
The soldier has been suspended from duty while Israeli military police hold a criminal investigation, the army said in a statement.
Footage filmed by a bystander showed one of the attackers prone on the ground following the stabbing, barely moving. One soldier then appears to take aim and fires a shot into the Palestinian’s head. The man’s body jerks and blood can be seen streaming from his head.
“The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) views this incident as a grave breach of IDF values, conduct and standards of military operations. A Military police investigation has commenced and the soldier involved has been detained,” military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “What happened in Hebron does not represent the values of the IDF”, adding that Israeli soldiers were “expected to exercise restraint and follow open-fire regulations”.
The United Nations, European Union and United States have backed Israel’s right to defend itself during a six-month campaign of street attacks by Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, while also urging restraint in their use of force.
Human rights groups have accused Israeli forces of too readily resorting to gunfire to wound or kill attackers rather than trying to detain them by other means. In some cases, Palestinians have been shot on the suspicion that they were about to carry out an attack.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said the video offered proof that Israeli soldiers “carry out field executions of Palestinians” and called for international protection of Palestinian civilians.
An Israeli hospital spokeswoman said the soldier wounded in Thursday’s attack was in stable condition and had sustained light injuries.
“Two assailants stabbed an (Israeli) soldier at a military post in Hebron. Forces responded to the attack and shot the assailants, resulting in their deaths,” the army statement said.
The Palestinian health ministry named the two dead as Ramzi Al-Qasrawi and Abdel-Fattah Al-Sharif, both 21.
Hebron, where there is a community of around 1,000 Israeli settlers living in the middle of the city of 200,000, has been the scene of many violent incidents over the past six months.
Thursday’s attack took place inside the area where Jewish settlers live side-by-side with some Palestinian residents.
Since October, Palestinians have killed 28 Israelis and two U.S. citizens in street attacks. Israeli forces have killed at least 190 Palestinians, 129 of whom Israel says were assailants. Many others were shot dead during clashes and protests.
Palestinian leaders say attackers have acted out of desperation in the absence of movement toward the creation of an independent state. Israel says they are being incited to violence by their leaders and on social media.
It is the worst period of sustained violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem since the second Palestinian uprising ended a decade ago. Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East war, when it also annexed East Jerusalem.
Palestinians seek the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza for an independent state. The last round of talks to try to negotiate an end to the decades-long conflict broke down in 2014 and there is little hope at this stage of a resumption.
Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Luke Baker and Mark Heinrich