JERUSALEM – An Israeli court cleared a border policeman Wednesday in the shooting the death of a 10-year-old Palestinian boy in July 2008 during a demonstration where youths were hurling rocks at security forces.
Judge Liora Frenkel said the Israeli officer, Omri Abu, violated rules of engagement by opening fire at protesters in the West Bank village of Naalin even though he was not in danger.
But she said the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a bullet from Abu's rifle struck Ahmed Moussa in the forehead, killing him.
Frenkel said Palestinian witnesses gave contradictory accounts, and district police conducted a flawed investigation. The ruling said Israeli officials were not allowed access to the body.
Abu said he opened fire to deter protesters who threw a volley of rocks at the armored car he was in.
The dead boy's father, Husam Moussa, said a Palestinian-conducted autopsy determined he was killed by a bullet to the head. He said the court rejected the autopsy.
"My son was 10 years old, and he did not pose any threat to the soldiers," Mousa said. "The court wanted to acquit the killer at the expense of my son's blood."
An Associated Press reporter, who saw the boy's body in the morgue in the West Bank city of Ramallah at the time he was struck four years ago, also saw that he was shot in the head.
Palestinians have held weekly demonstrations in Naalin for years against Israel's separation barrier, which cuts into the village's olive groves. Israel built the barrier to keep Palestinian attackers, including suicide bombers, out. Palestinians reject it as a land grab because it juts into areas like Naalin.
The Naalin demonstrations frequently develop into confrontations between stone-throwing youths and Israeli troops firing tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.
On the day in 2008 when Moussa was shot, Israeli forces erected a makeshift fence to prevent protesters from reaching bulldozers clearing land for the barrier.
Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators trying to scale the fence. By late afternoon, the clashes had subsided, but several teenage boys remained in the area and kept throwing stones.
Soldiers fired more tear gas and then live bullets, said an eyewitness at the time.
Associated Press reporter Diaa Hadid in the Gaza Strip contributed.