Israel may charge policewoman who shot Palestinian in back

Israel's Justice Ministry says it will soon decide whether to file charges against a former policewoman who shot an unarmed Palestinian in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet

JERUSALEM -- Israel's Justice Ministry said on Sunday it will soon decide whether to file charges against a former policewoman who allegedly shot an unarmed Palestinian man in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet, following possible new video evidence.

The case has drawn new attention to frequent but hard-to-prove Palestinians claims that Israeli security forces use excessive or unnecessary force against them.

Israel's Channel 13 TV station broadcast late Saturday what it said was a newly obtained video of last year's incident, in which the young Palestinian was stopped outside Jerusalem as he tried to enter Israel.

In the video, the Palestinian, holding a backpack, is seen standing in front of Israeli border police forces and told to leave. "Get out of here!" a woman screams at him.

He turns around and walks away with his hands in the air, as the forces continue to shout at him to leave. A male voice tells him to lower his hands and "walk normally," while the female voice yells at him to "run already."

Nearly 20 seconds after being sent away, the man is shot in the back from a long distance, screaming in pain as he crumples to the ground. The Israeli security forces are not visible when the shot is fired.

The Palestinian's identity was not immediately known, but the report quoted police as saying he was not seriously hurt. Border police often use the sponge-tipped bullets as a "nonlethal," albeit painful, tool to disperse crowds.

In a statement Sunday, the Justice Ministry said it has completed a criminal investigation after holding four hearings into last year's incident. It did not say when it will announce its decision.

The Israeli police said the female policewoman was removed from the force immediately after it learned of the incident. It said other police involved in the incident were re-assigned.

The TV report quoted the woman's lawyer as saying she did not fire the bullet. It also showed what it said were text messages between a different police officer suspected in the case, in which he bragged of shooting the Palestinian to his girlfriend, who calls him a "hunk" and attaches heart emojis.

Palestinians and human rights groups often accuse Israeli security forces of using excessive force against demonstrators and alleged attackers and doing little to punish wrongdoing. But video evidence is rare, and such cases are hard to prove.

Israel's leading human rights group, B'Tselem, stopped cooperating with the Israeli military three years ago after accusing the army of whitewashing scores of such cases.

"This exceptional documentation shows what, sadly, is an unexceptional event: Israeli security forces hurting a Palestinian for absolutely no reason," said B'Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz. "Such instances are the direct result of the culture of impunity fostered by Israel, which is crucial to the perpetuation of its military control over the Palestinians."