Wed, May 23, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Palestinians shot as Israeli troops stood by: B’Tselem

The Guardian, JERUSALEM

A video released by an Israeli human rights group appears to show an Israeli settler firing a pistol at a group of Palestinian protesters, while police and soldiers stand by.

The incident was filmed by Palestinians from the West Bank village of Asira al-Qibliya on Saturday afternoon. A 24-year-old Palestinian, Fathi Asayira, was taken to hospital with facial injuries following the shooting.

According to B’Tselem, which uploaded the footage to YouTube, a large group of settlers, some masked and armed, approached the village from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar and began throwing rocks and starting fires. After a group of Palestinians gathered and threw rocks in return at the settlers, Israeli police and soldiers arrived on the scene.

One of the settlers is seen crouching while aiming and then firing his pistol at the group of Palestinians. Another settler is seen firing an assault rifle.

“The video footage raises grave suspicions that the soldiers present did not act to prevent the settlers from throwing stones and firing live ammunition at the Palestinians,” B’Tselem said.

“The soldiers did not try to remove the settlers and in fact are seen standing by settlers while they are shooting and stone throwing,” it added.

In a statement, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it was investigating the shooting. Security forces arrived at the scene following stone throwing by both sides in an effort to separate them.

“There was a shooting during the incident and the matter is being investigated, but on the surface, the video that was released does not seem to represent the whole incident,” the statement said.

The Palestinian Authority demanded an impartial investigation into the incident and action from the international community over settler attacks and provocation.

“The gravity of the footage lies not only in the settlers’ provocations and shooting live ammunition towards unarmed residents, but also in the irresponsibility of the Israeli soldiers who stood watching the events,” a statement from the Palestinian prime minister’s office said.

The settlement’s spokesman, Avraham Binyamin, was quoted in the Israeli media as saying its security squad came under a hail of stones while trying to extinguish fires lit by Palestinians.

“It is clear that use of arms by IDF forces or the security squad was done in a tangible life-endangering situation,” he said.

Villagers in Asira al-Qibliya say attacks and intimidation by settlers from Yitzhar are routine. Yitzhar has a reputation for being one of the most hardline settlements in the West Bank. Israel’s education ministry closed down a state-funded yeshiva (religious school) on the settlement in November last year after Israeli security agency Shin Bet said it had accumulated evidence that students were engaged in acts of violence against Palestinian villagers.

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