Israeli ministers defend troops cheering after shooting unarmed man, with one saying he believed in 'purity of soldiers' weapons'
Israeli politicians have defended a video of Israeli snipers celebrating after they shoot an unarmed Palestinian near the border fence with Gaza.
The video, first broadcast by Channel 10 television late on Monday, appears to show soldiers shooting the man near the border fence of the Gaza Strip and whooping in excitement.
One of the soldiers rejoices in Hebrew after the shooting saying: "Wow, what a video!... YES! That son of the bitch."
The Palestinian does not appear to pose a threat to the Israeli soldiers who are on the Israeli side of the fence looking through a viewfinder or binoculars.
Naftali Bennett, Israel's minister of education, told Hebrew news site Ynet that he is not willing to be drawn into a "festival of condemnations" of the video, which has gone viral since its broadcast.
"Since when do we judge a soldier according to the elegance of his speech? I prefer a cheerful soldier from a grieving father," Bennet told Ynet.
Israel's military confirmed the authenticity of a video but alleged "it followed riots and warnings from troops".
It said in a statement that the Palestinian in the video was hit in the leg and wounded. The video was recorded on 22 December in the area of Kissufim near the Gaza Strip, it said. The Palestinian health ministry did not issue a statement regarding the shot Palestinian.
The soldier filmed in the video was called in for questioning by his commander on Tuesday, according to Ynet. The Israeli army also said the video was recorded by a soldier not part of the unit that fired the shot and that action would be taken against him.
Wow, what a video!... YES! That son of the bitch
- Israeli soldier in the video
Israeli public security minister, Gilad Erdan, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, told Ynet: "I believe in the purity of the soldiers' weapons and the ethics of combat. Hence, my principle is always to defend, indeed, soldiers who are on the battlefield."
He justified the rejoicing as a "human reaction" by the soldiers confronted with a "tense situation".
The video emerged as attention is focused on Israel over the killing of 31 Palestinians involved in March of Return protests along the border with the Gaza Strip which began on 30 March.
'Wow, what a legendary video'
Apparently, the footage was filmed from the Israeli side of the border fence through binoculars or a viewfinder.
In the video we hear the voices of two soldiers talking in Hebrew opening fire on what seems to be unarmed Palestinians walking around on the other side of the frontier.
The sniper trains his rifle on the Palestinian who is seen standing next to another two other men crouching in front of a roll of barbed wire several metres away from the border fence.
The Israeli military's Arabic spokesperson tweeted on 6 of April a photo with Palestinian children in a sniper scope captioned, "We see you well" (Screenshot)
"This is 50, affirmative, when he comes out, you get him," a voice is heard ordering.
"Do you have a bullet in the barrel?" someone else asks.
"Are you on him? Are you on him?" the first voice asks.
"Yes, he is stopping," the soldier replies.
"Go, yes," the first voice affirms.
"Wait, I can't shoot because of the barbed-wire," the soldier says.
Suddenly, a loud voice speaking in Hebrew, apparently from the soldier who filmed the shooting, shouts: "Maymoni, come here, come here, come here."
Soldiers talk over each over and then we see two of the Palestinians squatting near the barbed wire, while the third remains standing motionless.
The sniper then appears to open fire on the individual standing, knocking him to the ground, and we hear the cheering of the Israeli soldiers.
"Wow, what a video!... YES! That son of the bitch," said the soldier, with a whoop of excitement in Hebrew.
Palestinians are seen rushing to rescue the injured man.
"What a video! There, go and evacuate him..." the rejoicing voice of the soldier continues.
"Wow, someone was hit in the head," comes another cheer.
"Wow, what a legendary video."
According to Israeli military protocol, all live fire directed at protests requires approval by the most senior leadership in the field, usually on instructions from a brigade commander or battalion commander.
'We see you well'
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian Authority official, said the video showed what Palestinians have long alleged regarding soldiers' actions on the Gaza border, "but nobody has been listening".
"We have been complaining about this, but unfortunately nobody believes it unless an Israeli source documents it," Ashrawi told AFP.
"The issue of sniper fire is not something new at all, but it is time for the world to see and to believe what we have been saying all along."
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Jamal Zahalka, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a Knesset member of the Joint List party, told Haaretz that the video "indicates to the rule. Israeli snipers killed unarmed Palestinian protesters in cold blood who were participating in a non-violent protest."
He added that it's no wonder soldiers act this way when ministers, MKs, the media and public opinion join the celebration and cheer for the mass killing of Palestinians.
Ayman Odeh, a senior MK from Israel's Palestinian minority, called for the sniper to be put on trial.
On Friday, the Israeli military's Arabic spokesperson tweeted a photo with Palestinian children in a sniper scope captioned: "We see you well."
Avichay Adraee warned Palestinians on Friday that they cannot hide from the Israeli army during the March of Return protests along the border of Gaza Strip with Israel, which have been held for the past two Fridays.
March of Return
The video comes after mass protests along the Gaza border that began on Friday 30 March.
Thirty-one Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops since then, and hundreds were injured. There have been no Israeli casualties.
Palestinians in the besieged enclave of Gaza are reviving a longstanding demand for the right of return, where almost 1.3 million of the small territory’s two million inhabitants are refugees, demanding their right to return to their pre-1948 homes according to the UN resolution 194.
The Israeli military has stationed snipers to enforce a "no-go" zone near the border fence to stop Palestinian attempts to get close to the fence during the protests.
Protest camps have sprung up 700-1000 metres from the border fence. But large groups of youths have ventured considerably nearer, burning tyres last Friday to create a smokescreen to obscure the view of Israeli snipers.
Israel says it has been warning Gazans for weeks not to approach the border fence and accuses Hamas, the Islamic movement that governs Gaza, of instigating the protests. Organisers of the protest denied any Hamas-sponsored links.
Israeli officials have declined to specify exact distances that Palestinians protesters must remain from the fence.
Maps of Gaza from recent years by United Nations humanitarian agencies indicate a “no-go zone” of up to 100 metres from the barrier, with limited access for farmers in some areas from 100-300 metres.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.