Jerusalem: An Israeli court on Wednesday sentenced a police officer to nine months in jail over the fatal shooting of a Palestinian teenager in 2014, an incident documented by video footage. The sentence was handed down after policeman Ben Deri, 24, was found guilty of negligent homicide and also ordered to pay 50,000 shekels ($14,000) to the family of Nadeem Nuwarah, who was 17.
Nuwarah was killed on May 15, 2014 during a day of clashes in Beitunia, south of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters marking the anniversary of what the Arabs term the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, of the 1948 creation of Israel. Footage recorded by US broadcaster CNN captured a group of five or six border police officers in the area, one of whom could be seen firing at the time when the youth was hit.
Another teenager was killed in the same location under similar circumstances a little over an hour later, with another seriously injured.
Deri was charged only over the first killing as the family of the second teen said they had no confidence in the Israeli court system, a statement from Defence for Children International said. The CNN footage and other video appeared to dispute initial Israeli denials that their soldiers used live fire. Judge Daniel Teperberg of the Jerusalem district court said the circumstances of the defendant’s felony were “severe” and the degree of his negligence was “high”.
Deri said during his trial he had mistakenly introduced live ammunition into his M-16 instead of rubber bullets.
Deri did not ensure his rifle was loaded with blank bullets and rubber-coated shells, Teperberg said, noting the firing “was carried out without justification”.
-‘Lack of justice’-
Siam Nuwarah, Nadeem’s father, told AFP the family was not part of the plea deal confirmed by the court, in which he had no faith.
“We went to the Israeli court because there’s no other way, but this is a lack of justice that will breed violence,” he said.
Ayed Abu Qtaish from CDI said the sentence was too lenient. “It’s almost what a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones,” he told AFP by phone.
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the sentence reflected “Israel’s deliberate dehumanisation of its Palestinian victims”.
This, she said, was a result of the occupation of the West Bank that “holds an entire nation under captivity and employs an unremitting and lethal shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians.”
Deri’s action “constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity under international law,” Ashrawi said, warning that if the international community “remains silent, the injustice and oppression of the Palestinian people will continue unabated.”
Beitunia was that day the scene of remote skirmishes between young stone throwers and Israeli forces.
CNN images from the day show, according to the channel, Nuwarah throwing a stone at the Israeli forces.
CCTV showed the two teens falling down in the same place one hour and 15 minutes apart.
Border guards, a unit on the police, are regularly engaged alongside the Israeli army in the face of Palestinian unrest.
The court accepted a guilty plea deal on that basis that Deri had cooperated with the investigation and had no previous record of wrongdoing.
The sentencing comes as Palestinians and Israelis prepare for another commemoration of the “Nakba” on May 15.
The 2014 protests and increase in tensions eventually escalated into a full scale war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.