JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has suspended a soldier in the fatal shootings of two Palestinian teenagers at a protest held on May 15 in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
The incident stirred an outcry after a human rights group released video footage it said showed the youths had not posed any danger to soldiers and they were shot unlawfully.
The killings took place as protests erupted across the West Bank on Nakba Day, when the Palestinians mark the loss of the 1948 war that resulted in the creation of Israel and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
Muhammad Abu Thahr and Nadim Nuwara had both been shot in the heart, Palestinian hospital officials said, giving their ages as 16 and 17.
Two Israeli media organizations, the Haaretz news Web site and Channel 10 television, said on Wednesday the Israeli military had suspended a soldier from a communications unit and confiscated his weapon soon after the incident.
The reports said the soldier was suspected of having fired his gun without authorization, “very close to when” one of the youths was killed.
No apparent evidence linked the soldier to either fatality, though, in the incident outside Israel’s Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The soldier was suspected of firing rubber bullets, not live ammunition, the reports said.
An Israeli military spokesman declined comment on the reports, saying “the incident is still under investigation by military police.” The media reports said a military tribunal had clamped a gag order on other details of the case.
The military said on May 20 that a preliminary investigation indicated that security personnel had fired rubber bullets but not live ammunition during the clashes.
The Palestinian government has accused Israel of “cold-blooded murder” and carrying out “a war crime against defenseless children”.
Five days after the shootings, Defence for Children International (DCI) posted two minutes of video on YouTube, which it said was edited from six hours of surveillance footage from fixed security cameras at a Palestinian-owned business that overlooks the scene.
The group said the video shows that troops had committed “unlawful killings where neither child presented a direct and immediate threat to life at the time of their shooting”.
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Larry King