A soldier has been arrested for allegedly firing rubber bullets at a detained Arab rioter during the violent July 7th Naalin demonstrations, following the release of a videotape of the incident.
The tape was released by the left-wing B'Tzelem organization and shows the soldier shooting a rubber bullet at the feet of Ashraf Abu-Rahma while he was being detained by Israeli forces for violence during the riot. The demonstration, protesting the construction of the security fence through the Arab town of Naalin, is one of many in the area that have turned violent over the past months.
Officer Takes Responsibility
The video has yet to be verified by the IDF. However, the army's investigation thus far has revealed that the soldier said he was told by his commanding officer to shoot and scare the Arab rioter. The senior officer said that his instructions were merely to scare the Arab, but, he said, "I take responsibility for the incident."
Abu-Rahma, a resident of Bil’in, was detained for about 30 minutes by IDF soldiers at the scene of the rioting, one of many arrests for rioting during several days of Arab violence in Naalin. The video appears to show that while he was standing next to the officer's jeep for questioning, another soldier fired at him. He later said that his large left toe was slightly injured. He was treated at the scene and was released by the soldiers.
According to the tape, the soldier fired rubber bullets at a distance of about 1.5 meters from Abu-Rahma while the officer held the apprehended Arab rioter by the arm. The tape is claimed to have been filmed by a 14-year-old Arab girl who said she watched the episode from her nearby balcony window.
Expert Says Film Was Edited
Yonatan D. HaLevy, an expert on Arab affairs and an IDF Lt.-Col. in the reserves, says the video leaves much to be explained. For one thing, he told Arutz-7's Uzi Baruch, "For one thing, the film shows the soldier firing to the left of the detained man, and certainly not at his feet. Why don't they show the boot that would certainly have been damaged had he been shot in the foot? In addition, the military doctor said he had a small injury on the bottom of his right foot - while the injured man said he was hurt in the toe of his left foot."
"Finally," HaLevi said, "even though he was surprised by the shooting, as can be expected from one who is blindfolded, the Arab did not fall down right away from the supposed injuries to his foot, but rather remained standing on two feet, and actually leaning on his supposedly-injured left foot. The film is then cut, apparently on purpose, and we don't see how he ended up lying down on the ground."
"I must emphasize," HaLevy concluded: "There is no filmed proof that the man was shot in his foot."
The soldier was arrested on Sunday and "he was questioned a short while after the incident, but only today, after the military advocate-general watched the video tape, a criminal investigation was launched," a military official said.
The IDF is investigating the tape's authenticity and the accuracy of Abu-Rahma’s allegations prior to his arrest by the soldier. In the past, many such videotapes have been shown to the press and have created international condemnation and public outcry among left-wingers, only to be later revealed as fakes. The most infamous of these tapes is that of the Mohammed Al-Dura incident, which purports to show a 12-year-old boy being shot and killed in his father’s arms by Israeli gunfire. Drawing the wrath of the international community, the tape immediately prompted IDF officials to take responsibility and apologize for the shooting. Only later was the tape concluded to be a fabrication, but to this day it remains the symbol of Israel’s cruelty to Arabs.
The Naalin tape included words that were spoken before and after the shooting by the accused soldier and the officer, a regiment commander. The IDF refused to comment on the words spoken on the grounds that “the affair is still being investigated.”
The recent incident occurred on July 7, the fourth straight day that the entire village of Naalin was under full military closure in response to continued Arab and left-wing violence.
More than a week ago at least 10 rioters, including five left-wing Israelis, attacked Israeli security forces, resulting in injuries on both sides. In one incident, an Israeli bulldozer was overturned.