Troops Violated Rules in Village Raid Last Month, Army Probe Says
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli troops violated regulations and engaged in ″excessive use of fire″ in a raid on a West Bank village last month that left five Palestinians dead, according to an army investigation released Thursday.
The report calls for a police inquiry to determine if criminal charges should be filed against seven paramilitary Border Police involved in the incident in the village of Nahalin near Bethlehem, said army spokesman Lt. Col. Raanan Gissin.
It also recommends that two Border Police commanders and one army commander be transferred from duty in the occupied territories and that another army commander be reprimanded, he said.
There were ″discernable deviations (from orders), transgressions and excessive use of fire″ in the incident April 13, Gissin said.
The army says it has disciplined soldiers in about 50 cases in the 17-month Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Thursday’s report was unusual in its singling out high-ranking officers and its public release at a news conference.
But the strongest recommendation was that disciplinary action ″should be considered″ against police officers. In its Human Rights report in February, the U.S. State Deparment complained of lenient treatment of troops accused in fatalities and said ″many cases″ were not prosecuted.
Also on Thursday, troops fatally shot a Palestinian who broke through an army roadblock in the West Bank, and Arab assailants shot to death a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israeli authorities.
The deaths brought to 460 the number of Palestinians killed in the uprising. Twenty Israelis have died in the violence.
In Beirut, a group calling itself Islamic Jihad in Palestine claimed one of its ″strugglers″ was responsible for a stabbing attack in downtown Jerusalem that killed two Israelis and wounded three Wednesday.
Police said the were still investigating the claim by the attacker, Nidal Abdel Rizik Zaloum, that he acted on his own in revenge for the arrest and beating of a brother.
In Jerusalem, a 41-year-old Palestinian died of burns suffered Sunday when his kerosene-laden car exploded as it was passing a downtown police station, said police spokesman Uzi Sanduri.
Police initially said the man may have been planning a car bombing. Sanduri said Thursday ″at this point we don’t think it was a bomb, but we’re still checking.″
The army investigation into the Nahalin incident was launched after villagers complained it was a ″massacre″ in which border police opened fire without warning and attacked cars carrying wounded civilians to hospitals.
The border police operate under army jurisdiction in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
At least 13 villagers were injured, the report said, and four border policemen were hurt, none seriously.
Gissin said that the 25-man Border Police force entered Nahalin before dawn to search for Palestinians suspected of throwing firebombs and rocks at cars.
He said that about 100 village youths armed with rocks and firebombs ″ambushed″ the patrol, and that seven of the troops in the center of the village found themselves ″in a life-threatening situation.″
But this squad, he said, ″did not exhaust its non-lethal means and opened fire immediately.″ In response to a question, Gissin said ″in this particular incident, only live ammunition″ was used.
Army regulations calls for troops to use tear gas, rubber bullets and plastic ammunition before firing ″live″ lead rounds.
The names of the Border Police officers - a captain and a major - and the names of the army officers - a lieutenant colonel and a colonel - were withheld under military regulations.
In the shooting death of a Palestinian on Thursday, an army spokesman said troops shot and killed a man who tried to run a roadblock in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya.
Also in the West Bank, assailants shot to death Tayseer Issa Assad, 28, in Mughayer village on suspicion that he collaborated with Israeli authorities, Arab reports said. The army confirmed the death.
Also Thursday, a leading Palestinian intellectual, Sari Nusseibeh, was named in court papers charging four Palestinians with writing leaflets for the Palestinian uprising and passing funds for financing the revolt.
Nusseibeh was described as taking part in both actions but was not charged. He denied playing such a role and told the national news agency Itim: ″This is the sort of game played by people who rule over us. They’re trying to create an imaginary leadership.″