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From the field

Justifiable Force?

On October 25, Musa Fayiz Halail, 29, was shot to death by an IDF soldier at Rachel"s Tomb in Bethlehem. A few hours after the shooting, the IDF Spokesman stated that "an IDF soldier was attacked by a Palestinian who tried to stab him. The soldier responded by firing his personal weapon. The Palestinian was killed. the IDF is investigating the incident."

B'Tselem is puzzled as to how the IDF Spokesman can announce that an investigation has been opened, while at the same time making a definitive statement of the nature that the investigation is intended to determine. B'Tselem regrets that the IDF Spokesman has once again decided to spread baseless declarations.

Testimonies Palestinians working nearby gave to B'Tselem indicate a different story: according to their testimonies, the soldier stationed at the post summoned Musa Halail as he passed by. Halail approached the post, with no knife apparent in his hand. He and the soldier had a conversation. Halail put his hand in his pocket and a single shot was heard, which struck him. The soldier, shaken by his action, came down from his post and, while hitting himself in the head, yelled, "what have I done? What have I done?"

B'Tselem cannot definitively state which of the conflicting versions is correct. However, given the gravity of the result, law enforcement agencies must thoroughly investigate the incident. In addition, IDF investigators, who began their investigation that same day, took testimonies from soldiers at the scene. However, they did not attempt to take testimonies from Palestinian eye-witnesses working at the gas station 20 meters from the site of the shooting.

The method of investigation, characteristic of IDF investigations into the deaths of Palestinians in the past, raises a profound concern that the IDF is not genuinely interested in exposing the truth.

B'Tselem calls on the IDF to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation, to gather testimonies from Palestinian eye-witnesses, to check the fingerprints on the knife, and to treat the investigation as if it concerned the death of a Jew.