CNN (April 11 2018) - With international criticism of Israel's response to the Gaza protests growing, video emerged on Monday appearing to show an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) sniper shooting a Palestinian man standing near the border fence.

After the Palestinian man falls to the ground, soldiers are heard cheering in the background. One yells, "What a legendary film!"

The video, which circulated on social media, appears to be through a scope, showing the Gaza border fence and a field behind it.

The sniper is heard discussing the shot with another soldier nearby.

"When he stops, you take him down," the soldier says. "Are you on him?"

"I can't fire because of the barbed wire," the sniper responds a short time later.

"Take out the one in the pink," the other soldier says after a few moments.

IDF soldiers cheer as you hear the gunshot and see the Palestinian man fall.

"Son of a bitch!" one soldier, who appears to have recorded the video, yells. "What a legendary film! I haven't seen this kind of thing for a long time."

A group of Palestinians can be seen in the video running to the fallen man's side and removing him from the field.

In a response to the video issued Tuesday afternoon, the IDF said in a statement that the video was filmed on Friday, December 22, 2017 during what they termed "a violent riot."

At the time, protests were held in Gaza and the West Bank following US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"The video depicts a short part of the response to a violent riot, which included rock hurling and attempts to sabotage the security fence, and lasted about two hours. During the riot, means were taken in order to disperse it, including verbal warnings and calls to halt, using riot dispersal means and firing warning shots into the air," the IDF statement said.

"After none of these were successful, a single bullet was fired towards one of the Palestinians who is suspected of organizing and leading this incident, while he was a few meters from the fence. He was hit in the leg and injured. The video was not filmed from the position of the shooting, and was filmed by a soldier who was not part of the unit of the soldiers who fired."

The IDF also said "relevant commanders" would conduct a full operation inquiry, which will then be submitted to the Military Advocate General's Office, a legal department that supervises and the rule of law in the military.

The military noted that the cheering heard in the video "[does] not suit the degree of restraint expected of IDF soldiers and will be dealt by commanders accordingly."

The one minute, 20 second video led the news Monday evening on Israeli television channels and featured highly in local newspapers, reigniting a debate about the Israeli army's principles and its soldiers' actions.

It was not immediately clear who put out the video. The identity of the Palestinian -- and his condition after the shot -- are also unknown.

"The sniper deserves a medal, and the photographer deserves a demotion," said Israeli Defence Minister Israeli Avigdor Liberman, speaking Tuesday afternoon.

"The IDF is the most moral army in the world, but there can be no doubt when you are at the front and under a lot of tension and there is a need to unwind your nerves, there are emotions and one can understand it."

Condemnation expressed

But condemnation of the video came swiftly and forcefully.

Ahmad Tibi, a politician from the Joint Arab List party in Israel's Knesset, said on Facebook: "The crime and the evidence. The hunting of humans, and the gratification the sniper derives from the ruthless murder of an unarmed Palestinian civilian in Gaza. A video recorded by a soldier of the Israeli occupation forces who stood next to the sniper. Difficult to watch."

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said: "This documented case of extrajudicial killing demands the world to end Israel's impunity and highlights a further urgency for the International Criminal Court to open an immediate investigation into the war crimes committed by the Israeli occupying power."

The video appears to contradict the IDF's claim that it first fires warning shots into the air, then aims at protestors' legs. When the Palestinian man is shot, he is standing still in the field, apparently posing no threat to Israeli soldiers.

As widespread protests along the Gaza border entered a second week last Friday, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus denied Israel is using excessive force against protesters in Gaza.

He told CNN last week: "We are using water, tear gas, and other means to try to create a distance between rioters and our security fence. We aim for the lower part of the body, to the feet to make sure those rioters are not able to sabotage the fence or pose a significant threat to our facilities."

"We used tear gas and other means to create a distance between those rioters and our sensitive security infrastructure and if those things don't work, if people don't listen to our warnings and are hell bent on coming to the fence and sabotaging and trying to break through, we use very specific sharp shooters, snipers at specific persons who are trying to sabotage the fence. We aim for the lower part of the body, to the feet to make sure those rioters are not able to pose a significant threat to our facilities."

In all, 31 Palestinians have been killed in violence in Gaza since an initial protest was held at the border fence on March 30, according to a CNN count based on the Palestinian Health Ministry figures.

Human rights organizations slammed the Israeli military, claiming the video shows the rule and not the exception.

"Incidents such as the one in the video published today occurred hundreds of times over the past few weeks in the Gaza strip, causing death and injuries - with the full support of policymakers and top military officials," said Amit Gilutz, a spokesman for B'Tselem, a human rights organization

"The professed shock they now express, as well as their promise to investigate, are just lip service: as before, their 'thorough investigation' will once again whitewash the truth," he said.

Israel's Minister of Education and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, defended the soldier's actions.

"Seriously do you know what they were doing three minutes before, two minutes before?" he said on Israel Army Radio Tuesday morning.

"Maybe they lost a friend a day before. Do you know what the context of the situation was?"

"I stand behind IDF soldiers. They are guarding us, and we should get back to that a basic understanding which somehow got lost."

Reuters - (03-28-2018)The Israeli military has deployed more than 100 sharpshooters on the Gaza border ahead of a planned mass Palestinian demonstration near the frontier, Israel's top general says.

Organisers hope thousands in Gaza will answer their call to flock, starting on Friday, to tent cities in five locations along the sensitive border in a six-week protest for a right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel.

Citing security concerns, the Israeli military enforces a 'no-go' zone for Palestinians on land in Gaza adjacent to Israel's border fence.

Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot, the military's chief of staff, told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that the military would not allow "mass infiltration" or tolerate damage to the barrier during the protests.

"We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military's units, primarily from the special forces," Eizenkot said in the interview. "If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire."

Israeli soldiers are confronted by frequent violent Palestinian protests along the Gaza border and have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators whom the military said hurled rocks or petrol bombs at them.

Organisers said the protest is supported by several Palestinian factions, including Gaza's dominant Islamist Hamas movement that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi, speaking on Israel Radio, said Hamas had avoided direct conflict with Israel since the end of the 2014 Gaza war.

But he said that pressure Hamas was now feeling from Israel's destruction of some of its network of attack tunnels near the border, coupled with harsh economic conditions in Gaza, were "a formula for rising tension".

The start of the demonstration was symbolically linked to what Palestinians call Land Day, which commemorates the six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli security forces in demonstrations in 1976 over land confiscations. The week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, when Israel heightens security, also begins on Friday.

The protest is due to end on May 15, the day Palestinians call the 'Nakba' or 'Catastrophe', marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the conflict surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.

Palestinians have long demanded that as many as five million of their compatriots be granted the right to return. Israel rules this out, fearing an influx of Arabs that would eliminate its Jewish majority. Israel argues the refugees should resettle in a future state that the Palestinians seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

 

 

 

 

GAZA (Reuters) - A small group of Palestinian women in Gaza are stretching their limbs with yoga to help them teach others to cope with the stresses and traumas of living in the embattled territory.

The Gaza Strip, which is dominated by the Islamist Hamas faction, has experienced three wars with neighboring Israel in the past 11 years.

There are few recreational activities for women in the densely-populated enclave of two million people, which is under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt and has the highest unemployment rate on earth. 

Amal Khayal, who teaches the class in a makeshift gym and also heads women’s activities for Italian charity Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud (CISS), said the project was aimedat training some 30 women to teach.

“We are trying to use physical activities to help release psychological pressures so that women here can form a support network for one another,” Khayal told Reuters during one of her classes.

Some of the participants are also involved in learning juggling. Nineteen will become yoga instructors and 13 will learn to teach circus tricks, Khayal said, adding that more women had expressed a wish to participate in future classes.

“Everyone in Gaza, specially women, needs yoga because we live in a tough place. There are no entertainment facilities where we can unload our depressions which come in addition to our daily life issues,” said Amina Al-Zraiay, a sports teacher and occupational therapist.

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