RAMALLAH, West Bank – A human rights group has released a video that shows an Israeli soldier firing a rubber-coated bullet from close range toward the feet of a bound, blindfolded Palestinian man.
The Israeli military said Monday it was investigating the video, taken two weeks ago, and described the shooting as a "stark violation" of army rules. Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the soldier's conduct.
The Palestinian, Ashraf Abu Rahmeh, said Monday he was shot in one of his left toes and treated at the scene. During an interview, Abu Rahmeh, 27, took off his shoe and showed a large blister on his toe, with bruising underneath. He said for several days after the shooting, the toe was swollen.
The shooting took place on July 7, on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Naalin, said Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, a relative of the injured man. At the time, several dozen Palestinians including Abu Rahmeh participated in a protest against Israel's separation barrier, which is under construction near Naalin and will eventually cut off the village from hundreds of acres of its land.
In recent weeks, Naalin has been the site of frequent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops. In the incident two weeks ago, soldiers imposed a curfew and then fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel pellets to disperse protesters marching toward the village, said Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, who was at the scene.
Toward the end of the clashes, Ashraf and another Palestinian man were detained by troops, Abdullah Abu Rahmeh said. Ashraf was led to an army jeep, blindfolded and handcuffed, said Abdullah Abu Rahmeh. Ashraf was held in this way for about three hours, his relative said. Abu Rahmeh said he was then shot.
A Palestinian girl filmed the scene from her home near the jeep, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which obtained the footage.
The video shows Ashraf standing with the back to the camera, facing the jeep, while an Israeli army officer holds his arm. Another soldier slowly takes aim from a yard away and shoots toward Ashraf's feet. With the sound of the shot, the camera loses focus, and the next clear frames show Ashraf lying on the ground as Israeli soldiers lean over him.
"They shot me in the foot, in the toe," Abu Rahmeh said.
B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli demanded that the military take steps against both soldiers, the shooter and the one seen holding Abu Rahmeh's arm.
The army said military police are investigating.
The incident "is atypical and unacceptable and does not represent the Israel Defense Forces or its values," Barak told lawmakers from his Labor Party on Monday, according to a statement released by his office.
However, Palestinians have long complained of excessive force by Israeli troops in quelling Palestinian protests.
Israel has been building the separation barrier since 2002, saying it's a temporary defense against Palestinian attackers. However, the barrier extends into the West Bank, incorporating Jewish settlement blocs and seizing land from Palestinian villages, prompting claims it's a land grab and an attempt by Israeli to draw its border unilaterally.