JERUSALEM (AP) — An investigation of a fatal West Bank clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian stone-throwers indicates that troops used live fire without justification and in violation of the army’s rules of engagement, an Israeli human rights group said Tuesday.
Two Palestinian teens were killed and one was wounded in last week’s confrontation. Palestinian hospital officials have said the three were shot in the upper body by live rounds.
The Israeli military has denied live fire was used in last Thursday’s clash on the outside of the West Bank town of Beitouniya and that troops only shot rubber-coated metal pellets. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a senior army spokesman, said an investigation is continuing.
The rights group B’Tselem said its findings are based on witness accounts and medical records. Spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said security camera footage of the incident that surfaced late Monday supports the group’s findings.
The video, which had a Thursday time stamp, captures two moments that purportedly show the fatal shootings.
In the first, a figure with a backpack walks across a street toward a group of others standing next to a wall. Suddenly, he slumps to the ground. One hour and 13 minutes later, another figure crosses the street from the opposite direction and also falls to the ground.
The video does not show the source of the gunfire or the shooter.
An Associated Press cameraman and a stills photographer who were at the scene confirmed that the scenes in the video show the fatal shootings.
The owner of the security camera, Fakher Zayed, also confirmed the authenticity of the footage. Zayed said he was watching the events from his balcony.
He said they began when several dozen Palestinians threw stones toward Israeli troops who were dozens of meters (yards) away. He said that at the time of the fatal shooting, the stone-throwers had already pulled backed.
Zayed said he heard four shots being fired.
The slain teens were later identified as Nadim Nawara and Mohammed Salameh.
Michaeli, of B’Tselem, said the group’s investigation “indicates that the soldiers fired live ammunition at the upper bodies of these youths in conditions where there was no feasible justification for using lethal force against persons.”
Michaeli said the circumstances “raise the suspicion of wilful killings.”
She noted that the army’s own regulations only permit the use of live fire when soldiers’ lives are in danger. She said the video affirmed B’Tselem’s conclusion that the soldiers were “in zero danger” at the time of the shootings.
The military said soldiers faced a violent protest.
The Israeli military said the “video clip which was released today has been edited and doesn’t document the full extent of the event nor does it reflect the violent nature of the riot.”