JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israel pledged disciplinary action on Tuesday over a soldier’s leaked video showing an army sniper targeting a Palestinian across the Gaza border fence to profane praise from an onlooker, but deemed the shooting itself to have been exemplary.
The 81-second clip surfaced on social media on Monday and led Israeli TV news, with one host calling it “disturbing”. Its release followed a surge in Palestinian protests at the Gaza border in which 30 demonstrators have been killed by the army.
In a statement summarising a preliminary investigation, the military spokesman said the incident took place took place on December 22, amid Palestinian unrest at US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
The Palestinian who was shot was suspected of organising a “riot, which included rock hurling and attempts to sabotage the security fence, and lasted about two hours,” the statement said.
The sniper fired at him once, wounding him in the leg, after warnings shots and orders to disperse went unheeded, it said, adding that the video was taken by a soldier from another unit.
“As for the unauthorised filming of an operational event, the distribution of the filmed material and the statements made there, it should be noted that these do not suit the degree of restraint expected of IDF (Israel Defence Force) soldiers and will be dealt with by commanders accordingly,” the statement said.
It was not clear how many soldiers might face disciplinary action, nor how harsh it might be. In the video, a voice can be heard saying, “Yes! Son of a bitch!” as the Palestinian, who appears to be standing motionless near the fence, is shot.
Remarking on the video on Tuesday, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters: “The Gaza sniper deserves a decoration, and the photographer a demerit.”
The Israeli military has stationed sharpshooters to enforce a no-go zone near the border and stop Palestinian attempts to breach the fence during a protest that has been called “The Great March of Return”.
The demonstrations are expected to escalate ahead of the planned opening of a new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, coinciding with Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
The protesters are reviving a long-standing demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to towns and villages from which families fled, or were driven out, when the state of Israel was created in 1948.