Israel ministers defend soldiers appearing to rejoice in shooting Palestinian

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Two Israeli right-wing ministers on Tuesday defended soldiers after a video appearing to show them shoot a Palestinian and rejoice in it spread widely on social media and news sites.

The shooting appears to take place along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, with one of the voices in the video declaring in Hebrew: "Wow. What a video! Yes! That son of a bitch."

The Palestinian seems to be near the fence dividing the Gaza Strip from Israel, but does not appear to pose an immediate threat.

Israel's military said the incident "apparently" took place several months ago and that it was investigating.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan downplayed the actions of the presumed soldier and others in the video that began to spread widely on Monday night.

"We are going overboard with this video," said Erdan, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

"It doesn't show gunfire at everyone, but at a terrorist who approaches the barrier in an unauthorised zone coming from an area controlled by Hamas terrorists," he told public radio.

"I am convinced that everything is OK," he added, while also speaking of a "human reaction" by the soldiers confronted with a "tense situation."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party also justified the behaviour depicted in the video.

"Judging soldiers because they are not expressing themselves elegantly while they are defending our borders is not serious," Bennett told army radio.

It was not possible to determine whether the person shot in the video died. Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported that the video was recorded in December.

The video comes after mass protests along the Gaza border beginning on March 30 that have led to clashes in which Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others.

There have been no Israeli casualties.

Israel has faced mounting criticism over its use of live fire, while the European Union and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation.

Israel says its forces only open fire to stop attempts to damage the fence, infiltrations, attempts to carry out attacks and at those seeking to harm soldiers.

It accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests to carry out violence.

Palestinians say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to soldiers.