Harriet Sherwood
The Guardian (Analysis)
October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

The commander of an Israeli army unit whose soldiers shot dead a Palestinian protester just hours before president Mahmoud Abbas called on the United Nations to recognise a Palestinian state has been relieved of his post.

The lieutenant in the Haruv battalion, who has not been named, had a history of disciplinary transgressions. The death of 34-year-old Essam Oudah in the West Bank village of Qusra was not thought to be the main factor in the action against him. "The officer was dismissed from his command due to a number of operational and disciplinary incidents," an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) statement said.

Oudeh was killed after Palestinian men rallied to protect the village from a feared incursion by nearby settlers. The village had formed a defence committee following the vandalising of one of Qusra's mosques by settlers last month – an attack condemned by the US and European Union.

On 23 September, the day Abbas submitted the Palestinians' formal request to be admitted as a full state to the UN, warnings were broadcast from Qusra mosques that settlers were approaching.

Hundreds of men and youths streamed to the edge of the village. The Guardian, which was present for the standoff between villagers and settlers, saw no stone throwing or physical confrontation from either side before the Israeli army began firing teargas at the Palestinians.

Later that day, an IDF statement said a "mutual rock hurling incident ... incited a violent riot, during which Palestinians hurled rocks at security personnel". The army opened fire with live bullets, injuring three Palestinians, including Oudeh who subsequently died. The army launched an investigation.

According to a report on the Israeli Ynet news website, the army inquiry concluded the incident was an "operational failure" and that the commander had made an error of judgment in ordering troops to open fire. The officer told investigators his team felt threatened and outnumbered, according to Ynet. The IDF declined to comment beyond a brief statement. The commander is to remain in the IDF, but not in a combat role.

An Israeli settler and his infant son were killed on the same day after Palestinians threw rocks at their car near Hebron, causing it to overturn.


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