Video footage has emerged that appears to show the moments leading up to the fatal shooting of a teenage stone thrower by a senior Israeli army officer, seemingly contradicting the soldier’s account of the killing.
Doubts about the account of Col Yisrael Shomer, a brigade commander in the occupied territories, began to emerge last week in witness accounts and medical evidence collected by the Guardian, Washington Post and human rights groups.
They suggested that 17-year-old Mohammed Kasbeh was shot in the upper body by Shomer as the youth was fleeing, not in the midst of a life-threatening attack.
According to the Times of Israel, following the emergence of the video, Shomer was interviewed under caution by military police who were already investigating the shooting.
According to a Channel 2 TV report, Shomer continued to claim during questioning that he feared he was in imminent danger when his vehicle was attacked and that he operated according to army protocol. He consulted lawyers before the meeting with army investigators.
The footage – acquired by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem – was recorded by a security camera on a nearby petrol station and, although it does not show the moment of the lethal shooting itself, appears to show the preceding seconds.
In the grainy footage a figure believed to be Kasbeh can be seen among a group of youths running at the Israeli officer’s staff car as it passes and throwing a stone from close quarters.
As the car brakes suddenly to a halt, the youths scatter out of camera shot and two soldiers at first exit the vehicle and give chase.
The video appears to confirm multiple witness accounts supplied to investigating journalists and human rights works workers – including medical evidence – that Kasbeh, the third sibling in his family to be shot dead by the IDF in the past 15 years, was shot in the back.
Witnesses also claimed that after the shooting Shomer approached the dying teenager and kicked or pushed him with his foot. This is not apparent from the angle the video depicts.
It appears to strongly contradict Shomer’s claims that the lives of himself and the soldiers with him in the car were in immediate danger, allowing him to respond with lethal force.
In a statement released on Monday morning, B’Tselem said: “The claim that Kasbeh posed a mortal threat to the soldiers at the time of the shooting, having fled the scene, is unreasonable.
“There is no doubt that the shattering of the jeep’s front window with a stone endangered the passengers when it happened. However, Kasbeh was shot in the back after the fact, when he was already running away and posing no ‘mortal threat’ to the soldiers. Feeling a sense of danger is not enough to justify any action.
“The IDF … also noted that Col Shomer carried out suspect-arrest procedure. Yet this claim contradicts both the first claim, that Kasbeh posed an immediate threat, and the facts of the case: military open-fire regulations permit shooting at the legs of a suspect in order to facilitate his arrest. They do not permit killing him by firing three shots at his upper body.
“The fact that the soldiers drove away without offering the injured youth any medical assistance runs counter to basic human morality. It is also a breach of military regulations, which require soldiers to ensure to the extent possible that persons injured by shooting receive medical assistance.”
The shooting of Kasbeh took place early in the morning on 3 July at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah after the teenager threw a stone at a military vehicle, breaking its windscreen but not injuring the occupants.
According to the initial account by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) – supported by several leading politicians who commended Shomer’s action – the soldiers driving the vehicle near the West Bank village of al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, came under attack from a hail of stones and boulders that shattered their windshield during a sustained attack.
The case was unusual in that it involved such a senior officer and because political figures, including the rightwing education minister, Naftali Bennett, rushed to praise Shomer in the hours after the shooting.
The emergence of the video came as it was announced that another Israeli brigade commander, Lt Col Neria Yeshurun, is under investigation by the country’s military advocate general for his actions during last summer’s Gaza war.
Yeshurun – one of five senior officers reportedly under investigation from that conflict, according to Army Radio – ordered the shelling of a Palestinian medical centre allegedly in revenge for the killing of one of his officers by a sniper.
According to the Israeli media, he is expected to be questioned under caution by military police on Monday – becoming the first high-ranking IDF commander to undergo a serious criminal investigation for war crimes allegedly committed during the summer 2014 war.
The Israeli military advocate-general decided to order a full criminal investigation after hearing an audio recording of internal army communication during the incident, which included an address delivered by Yeshurun in which he ordered his soldiers to shell the medical centre saying it was to avenge the dead officer’s death – in breach of the law of armed conflict.
His lawyer has said it was a legitimate military target.