Israeli settler shoots at Palestinians while IDF soldiers stand by

16:30 May 19 2012 Asira al-Qibliya (Asira Qeblia)

Photo: Screen grab of the video, showing the settler firing at the Palestinians.

B'Tselem releases video of clashes between settlers and Palestinians near Itzhar on Saturday; 24-year-old Palestinian wounded as a result of the shooting.

By Gili Cohen for Haaretz

A new video released by B'Tselem on Sunday shows a settler allegedly firing live ammunition at Palestinians in Asira al-Qibliya, near Nablus, while soldiers stand idly by.

The incident took place on Saturday, around 4:30 P.M, when a group of settlers, apparently from the nearby settlement of Izhar, came to the Palestinian village.

In the video distributed by B'Tselem, a group that examines Israeli human rights violations in the West Bank, the settlers are seen throwing rocks at the village houses and residents.

A few minutes into the video, some Palestinian youths arrive at the scene and start throwing rocks back at the settlers. Shortly after, as gunfire is heard in the background, soldiers arrive and stand beside the settlers.

In the video, two of the settlers are armed; one with a pistol and one with an M-16 automatic rifle. They are seen aiming their weapons at the Palestinians and one seen firing at them, while soldiers do nothing to stop them.

As a result of the shooting, a 24-year-old Palestinian youth, Fathi Assayara, was wounded and taken to a Nablus hospital for treatment. B'Tselem says his condition is stable. Five more Palestinians were wounded by the rock throwing.

B'Tselem contacted the police and demanded that they bring the settlers up on assault charges. In addition, the organization contacted the IDF's military police and demanded that an investigation be made into the conduct of the soldiers in the video.

"From the footage of the incident, it seems that the soldiers that were present didn't take any measures to stop the settlers from throwing stones, lighting fires, and firing live rounds at the Palestinians. The soldiers didn't try to get the settlers to leave and in fact stood by them while they threw stones and shot at the Palestinians," B'Tselem said.

The IDF Spokesperson said in response that the shooting took place during clashes between settlers of Itzhar and the Palestinian residents of Asira al-Qibliya, in which both sides threw stones. "Upon receiving the report of the incident, security forces arrived at the scene in an effort to separate the sides," the statement said. "There was a shooting during the incident and the matter is being investigated… but on the surface, the video that was released does not seem to represent the whole incident."

The Itzhar settlers said that "the settlement's security squad and volunteer firefighting crew were called to the scene to extinguish a series of fires set by the Arabs from the town." They said that "this is the third Saturday in a row that Arabs have been setting fires in an attempt to damage Itzhar's western neighborhood."

The settlement spokesman Abraham Benjamin said the video clearly depicts the shower of stones the security squad received as they shielded the firefighting crew with their bodies, after two of them were hurt beforehand.

"It can be plainly seen that the use of weapons by the IDF or the security team was warranted by a real danger to life. The security forces will investigate the incident," Benjamin added.

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