“Got it! Wow, got it. Got video, too!”
This is what the voice on this video is heard exclaiming just after a sniper fires a shot toward an unarmed Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank village of Silwad.
The video shows a person in the distance, apparently standing still and not involved in any kind of confrontation, falling to the ground as soon as the shot is fired.
The Israeli publication Mako says that the soldiers in the video appear to be from the Netzah Yehuda battalion, the same Kfir brigade unit whose members were caught on video brutally beating a Palestinian man from Jalazone refugee camp last week.
The Israeli army spokesperson justified the shooting, claiming, according to Mako: “The film shows sniper fire toward the lower body of a central inciter in a violent and illegal disruption of the peace, which occurred in the village of Silwad, northeast of Ramallah. The shooting was done with permission by the sector commanders after the suspect threw an incendiary device and stones at the forces on the spot.”
But Mako says:
However, as can be seen in the film, the wounded Palestinian man has no incendiary device in his hand, no such device fell out of his hand when he was hurt, and he is not seen walking, running, or threatening the soldiers in the field. According to the colonel with whom we discussed this, a very experienced infantry officer, “the target is not threatening the forces in the field in a manner that requires operating the sniper, not according to military procedures.”
The unnamed colonel to whom Mako showed the video adds: “It is customary to put snipers at controlling points and they have a very specific role: to locate and destroy an armed person who threatens the forces, if such a person appears among the demonstrators, or take out of commission a demonstrator who presents a clear threat and endangers the life of forces in the field … unfortunately, it does not look like that is the situation in the film in question.”
In other words, even by the standards of the occupying forces, this shooting was a gratuitous act of violence.
Mako – and the officer it interviewed – seem more concerned however with the public relations damage the video could do, rather than the rights of Palestinians under occupation.
The colonel criticizes the filming style “which is more appropriate for Hamas terrorists or Syrian rebels than for an army like the IDF.”
“The trickling of such materials to the Internet is especially serious,” the colonel adds. “In this way you can see how the force operates, they’re exposing themselves to legal problems, and what they don’t understand is that this could get the whole country in hot water. Damage at a global level. It’s just stupidity.”
The colonel notes that the video “has started gaining speed over the last few hours and it looks like it has already started being published on foreign sites.”
He worries that it could hit world news programs “and then the party will begin.”
Who is the victim?
It is impossible to tell from the video the identity of the victim of the sniper attack.
According to Mako, the video “was apparently shot last Thursday, during a demonstration in the village of Silwad.”
However local media have not reported incidents on Thursday. Typically, Palestinians in the village hold weekly demonstrations against the occupation on Fridays.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA reports that on Friday, two Palestinians in the village were injured by occupation forces who “raided several homes in the town, forced residents out and took over their rooftops, turning them into military outposts to target residents.”
According to the report, one youth was shot and injured and another was hit by a stun grenade.
During confrontrations in the village on 5 June, the 48th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupation forces injured three Palestinians with live ammunition in Silwad.
All three, one a child of 13, sustained bullet wounds to their legs, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
Given that the people of Silwad are the constant targets of occupation forces and the settlers they protect, there has been no shortage of opportunities for the kind of violence depicted in the video.
Resisting land theft
The presence of occupation forces in the area has nothing to do with any legitimate Israeli “security” concern but with protecting and promoting the theft of Palestinian land by and for settlers, in violation of international law.
Silwad villagers have seen much of their land stolen by Israeli colonists and have lived for years under severe movement restrictions by the occupation forces.
The settlement of Ofra, established in the mid-1970s, was built on lands seized from Silwad and the nearby village of Ein Yabroud.
According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the “built-up area of Ofra lies on land that is registered in the Land Registry under the names of Palestinians from the villages of Ein Yabrud and Silwad.”
“The existence of Ofra is responsible for extensive violations of the human rights of Palestinians living in the area,” B’Tselem adds.
More recently settlers from Ofra have stolen even more Silwad village land to build the “Amona” outpost, an act legitimized by Israeli authorities.
What is notable about Netzah Yehuda is that it is a recently formed Haredi or Ultra-Orthodox unit. Haredi leaders have strongly opposed a recent law requiring young men from the community, who had been exempt since the founding of Israel, to enter the army for the first time.
The video is therefore being approvingly circulated on some websites to show that Haredi men are capable of being just as ruthless as other enforcers of the occupation.
Dena Shunra contributed research and Hebrew translation.