Instead of driving away in his military jeep after a stone was hurled at his windshield, the Israeli regional brigade commander chose to stop, chase Mohamed Kasbeh and shoot him three times.
Just over a week after the widely publicized shooting death of a 17-year-old Palestinian boy by a senior Israeli army officer, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem released CCTV footage of the incident. It appears to support eyewitness claims that the life of the officer, Col. Yisrael Shomer, was not in danger, which runs contrary to his claim.
According to the video, Mohamed Kasbeh did indeed throw a stone at the windshield of the armored military vehicle. But then he ran away. The officer, rather than driving away from the scene, stopped the vehicle, got out and chased the fleeing boy. The actual shooting took place outside the frame of the video.
Click here for a longer, unedited version of the video.
As Peter Beaumont explains in his thorough report of the incident for the Guardian, no one disputes that Kasbeh threw a stone at the windshield of an Israeli military vehicle near Qalandiya crossing, adjacent to Ramallah, early in the morning on July 3. The controversy is over whether or not Kasbeh presented an imminent danger to the soldiers when he was shot.
Colonel Shomer claimed he shot Kasbeh in order to save his own life. His account is supported by Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home Party, who is the current education minister. But Beaumont and B’Tselem interviewed several eyewitnesses, who said that Shomer shot Kasbeh in the back as he was running away. The physician who treated Kasbeh confirmed that the fatal bullet entered the boy’s back. Beaumont writes that the medical report, which he obtained, supports the physician’s conclusion.
And now we have the video which, while it does not show the actual shooting, does prove that the boy ran away as soon as he threw the rock. Shomer, instead of driving away in his vehicle, chose to stop, chase the boy and shoot him in the back. Then, according to eyewitnesses, the officer prodded the dead boy with his boot and left the scene without calling for medical help. So it appears to be murder, and callous indifference. And, of course, lying.
This incident has been widely publicized because Shomer has such a high military rank — he is the officer in charge of the Jerusalem regional brigade — and because Kasbeh lost two brothers, aged 11 and 15, during the Second Intifada. But in general, incidents of soldiers beating or killing Palestinians who present little or no threat are common. Sometimes, these incidents are recorded on video or in still images. A soldier deliberately shooting a blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian in the foot. Or a sniper shooting an unarmed boy from a roof. A soldier opening the back door of his armored vehicle to shoot a high velocity tear gas canister into the face of a protestor. A scrum of soldiers from the Kfir Brigade beating senseless an unarmed, middle aged man after they’d already restrained him. The list is very long.
Read also: License to Kill — how soldiers get away with murder
Almost invariably, these incidents end with the army investigating and exonerating itself, or perhaps sentencing one or two perpetrators to a month in military prison or even time served — while a soldier who criticizes the army is sentenced to a week in jail, even though he was off duty when he expressed said opinion.
There is no reason to expect this incident will end differently. It’s not as though Kasbeh’s family can pursue a case against Shomer in civil court. They are not citizens of Israel. They are residents of territory under Israel’s military occupation.
A man with a gun was driving in a military vehicle when a boy threw a stone that hit his windshield. The man in the vehicle was not injured, but he was very angry. And he was armed not only with a gun, but with the sense of power and entitlement that comes from being a lord of the land. So he chased and shot the boy, because he lost his temper. And because he could.