JERUSALEM (JTA) — The soldier caught on video shooting a supine Palestinian terrorist in the head will face charges of manslaughter, not murder, a military court decided.
The military tribunal met on Thursday and made the determination, according to reports.
The decision comes two days after the prosecutor told the tribunal it was working to determine the exact charges, and asked that the soldier continue to be held in military prison.
The soldier has still only been identified by his initials, as his identity remains under a gag order. He was held on murder charges on March 25 for shooting a Palestinian wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron one day earlier.
Knesset members from the Arab Joint List MKs condemned the downgrading of charges against the soldier, saying the decision “proves once again that such incidents must be investigated by an international war crimes tribunal.”
“This is a soldier who committed a criminal act of murder, as is clearly seen in the video, and the decision was influenced by the comments of the prime minister, who asked that the family of the soldier be considered,” Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi wrote in a joint statement, adding that the Israel Defense Forces should “investigate and punish the soldiers and officers and medical staff who stood by and did not lift a finger either before or after the murder.”
The soldier’s arrest has set off a national debate in Israel that has enveloped the country’s leaders. On March 24, the day of the incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the soldier’s conduct “does not represent the values of the IDF.”
The soldier’s parents and politicians to Netanyahu’s right, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, defended the soldier and criticized Netanyahu for insufficiently defending Israel’s troops during a wave of terror attacks.
On Monday, Netanyahu wrote on Facebook that the soldier’s father’s words “touched my heart” and wrote that he trusted the military investigation would be “fair to the solider.”
The prosecutor in military court said the soldier shot the Palestinian stabber in the head though he was down on the ground and no longer a threat.
The soldier arrived at the scene several minutes after the terror attack and acted independently, the Israel Defense Forces found in an initial investigation. The soldier’s attorney has said that he was concerned that the assailant was wearing a bomb and was planning to blow it up.
The military says the downed terrorist had been checked for explosives, though the Magen David Adom emergency medical service disputes this.
Military investigators say the soldier is cooperating and replies to their questions, but has refused to take a lie detector test, Haaretz reported.
Meanwhile, the left-wing human rights group B’Tselem said that its Hebron volunteer that caught the soldier shooting the downed Palestinian stabber on camera has been called in for questioning by police, the Times of Israel reported.
Right-wing activists filed a civil complaint against the volunteer, identified as Emad abu-Shamsiyah.
The complaint alleges that he conspired with the two Palestinian stabbers in last week’s incident in Hebron.