The slaying of a Palestinian man by Israeli soldiers on Thursday may amount to a war crime, “giving rise to individual criminal responsibility at the International Criminal Court,” the human rights group Al-Haq stated on Saturday.
Reports on Thursday suggested that Yasin Omar al-Saradih died after he was beaten by Israeli soldiers, but an autopsy on Friday revealed that the 35-year-old man was killed by a bullet wound to the stomach.
Al-Saradih was killed while Israeli forces raided the city of Jericho before dawn on Thursday to arrest wanted Palestinians.
Under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, Jericho is located in Area A of the occupied West Bank, meaning that it is supposedly under full Palestinian Authority control.
During the Thursday raid, Israeli forces fired tear gas and sound grenades at Palestinian youths, according to Al-Haq.
Al-Saradih approached the raiding forces “carrying a metal object comprising a car tire and an iron bar,” Al-Haq stated.
Al-Saradih ran toward the soldiers shortly after the army raided the home of his elderly uncle and searched it for half an hour, interrogating his family members.
What happened next was recorded by nearby security cameras:
The footage “shows [al-Saradih] running towards the [Israeli occupation forces] and then being shot at and assaulted by one of the soldiers,” according to the rights group.
“The soldier is then joined by two more soldiers who are seen kicking [al-Saradih] with their boots and beating him with their rifles.”
Five additional soldiers appear and surround a now incapacitated al-Saradih. The soldiers drag him to a second location approximately five meters away.
Additional security footage obtained by Al-Haq shows that the soldiers “continued to assault [al-Saradih].” The forces gathered around the Palestinian man as he lay on the ground for at least 10 minutes without providing him with first aid.
An eyewitness told Al-Haq that soldiers checked whether al-Saradih was still alive, and then dragged him away and put him into a military jeep before driving away.
Al-Haq stated that security camera footage, a portion of which can be viewed below, confirms the eyewitness account. The group said that the video shows soldiers carrying al-Saradih, who is no longer moving, and loading him into the jeep.
Denied medical aid
Immediately following the incident the Israeli military first alleged that al-Saradih had attacked soldiers with a knife and tried to steal one of their guns. They also claimed that army medics treated al-Saradih on the scene – a claim contradicted by the eyewitness testimony and video footage obtained by Al-Haq.
Al-Haq stated that the military’s claim that al-Saradih was evacuated from the scene to receive medical treatment “remains unsubstantiated and does not explain why [al-Saradih] was left lying on the ground, injured, for at least 10 minutes before being transported by an [Israeli occupation forces] vehicle.”
“Failure to call for medical assistance for Yasin al-Saradih, who was left dead or dying for at least 10 minutes, is a violation of Israel’s obligation [to] protect the right to life,” Al-Haq stated on Saturday.
Israeli forces frequently deny first aid to Palestinians injured by soldiers, and often prevent Palestinian medics from accessing them.
Medics weren’t allowed to approach the bodies of two Palestinian boys killed by Israeli shelling in Gaza last Saturday night until the following morning.
Amnesty International has stated that failure to provide medical aid – especially intentional failure – “violates the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment” and as such “should be investigated as a criminal offense.”
On Friday, an autopsy was performed at Israel’s Institute of Forensic Medicine in the presence of a Palestinian physician. The examination determined that al-Saradih’s body showed signs of beating but his death was caused by a bullet to the stomach.
Israeli media reported that the soldiers involved in al-Saradih’s death are expected to be questioned on Sunday.
Israeli military probes of the army’s own soldiers’ conduct rarely lead to indictments.
The leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has described the internal investigative unit as a “fig leaf” mechanism that serves to whitewash the occupation.
The pretense of a robust internal investigative mechanism has, however, helped Israel evade accountability in international courts.
This impunity has encouraged an environment in which Palestinians are routinely killed without international scrutiny.
Al-Haq noted in late 2015 that “Since 1987, no Israeli soldier or commander has been convicted of willfully causing the death of a Palestinian in the [occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip].”
Elor Azarya, an Israeli army medic who was caught on video shooting at the head of a prone Palestinian as he lay on the ground in March 2016, was exceptionally convicted of manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Israel’s military chief later reduced that sentence by four months.
Fourteen Palestinians – four of them children – have been killed by Israeli forces, including settlement security guards, so far this year. Two Israelis in the occupied West Bank were slain by Palestinians during the same period.