- Published on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 11:48
By Jonny Rafferty for PNN
Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, has released footage that shows Israeli soldiers standing by as settlers open fire on Palestinian villagers on Saturday 19th May.
The footage shows a group of settlers from Yitzhar descending on Asira al-Qibliya and a group of young Palestinians confronting them – rocks are thrown by both groups. It is important to note at this stage that there are no burning fields.
What happens next was filmed from two different angles. The footage now shows armed settlers – in white t-shirts – standing very close to the village and the Palestinian fields behind them are now burning. A group of Israeli soldiers can now be seen amongst the settlers.
One of the settlers can be seen armed with a 'Tavor' rifle which is only used by infantry soldiers, raising the suspicion that he is a soldier on leave.
The Palestinian youths start throwing stones at the settlers and two settlers respond by opening fire at a young Palestinian who falls to the ground. His fellow villagers rush out to drag him away.
The third video shows the same scene from a different angle. In this video we can see a third settler take aim and fire with a handgun. We can also see the Israeli soldiers make no attempt to stop or apprehend the settlers.
The injury sustained by the young Palestinian man can be seen more clearly in this video. The villagers rush to carry him back to the village, shouting in defiance. He was hospitalised after receiving a head wound which wasn't serious.
Avraham Binyamin, a spokesman for the Yitzhar settlement, told the BBC that the Palestinians had engaged in an act of 'arson terror' by deliberately setting fire to their own land in order to burn down the settlement.
He went on to claim that the settlers had gone down to put out the fire and were 'attacked by hundreds of Arab rioters hurling rocks at them'. However, the first video clearly shows that there was no fire when the settlers came down to the village.
It is impossible to tell from the video who started the fire. But we can see that the fire was in the fields of Asira al-Qubliya and much closer to their village than the settlement. The injured man's father, Fathi Nijem Asayrah, said that 'sometimes twice a week the settlers come down and start attacking us and damaging our farms'.
B'Tselem says that the video raised 'grave suspicions' as to why the soldiers did not intervene in any way. The group has requested that the Military Police Investigative Unit open an investigation into the incident due to the suspicions that the soldiers did not perform their duty of protecting Palestinians from settlers violence and that one of the attackers was a soldier on leave.
The Israeli military has released a statement admitting that 'during the confrontation, live fire was used' and that 'the incident is currently being investigated by the division commander. It appears that the video in question does not reflect the incident in its entirety.'