Rights group disputes Israeli army on West Bank killing

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An Israeli human rights group disputed on Tuesday the army’s account that it killed a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank during a riot on Dec. 4, saying CCTV video footage showed no such disturbances when he was shot.

Palestinian medics said 22-year-old Mohammed Habali suffered a bullet wound to the head in Tulkarm. A military spokeswoman said at the time that soldiers resorted to live fire after first trying less lethal methods against “a violent riot ... in which dozens of Palestinians hurled rocks”.

In the video published by rights group B’Tselem, a man is seen collapsing in a street. Footage from different cameras, and which B’Tselem said it synchronized with the first, shows troops crouching behind a car, two of them apparently aiming rifles.

The felled man cradles what appears to be a stick under his right arm and several other men are seen scattering around the time that he falls. The more than minute-long video clip does not show any of them throwing rocks at troops, nor any rocks on the tarmac.

Responding to B’Tselem’s findings, the Israeli military repeated its original account of violence by the Palestinians in Tulkarm, adding that the shooting was under investigation.

Israeli troops frequently mount raids in the West Bank, where violence has simmered over long-stalled Palestinian statehood talks.

Rights groups have often accused the Israeli military of excessive force and lax handling of such allegations. Israel says its armed forces are kept to a high ethical standard.

“It stands to reason ... that the killing of Mohammed Habali, just like so many cases in the past, will be followed by an investigation that comes to nothing, that the incident will be whitewashed and criticism silenced,” B’Tselem said in a statement.

Habali’s relatives confirmed to Reuters that he was the man seen in the B’Tselem video. The stick he was carrying was a broom, they said.

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