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Group Faults Israeli Military's Probes of Violence Against Palestinians

  • Associated Press

FILE - Israeli solider Elor Azaria sits inside an Israeli military court in Tel Aviv, Israel, in an April 18, 2016, photo. If convicted, Azaria faces up to 20 years in prison.

An Israeli advocacy group on Tuesday criticized what it called an "exceptionally low" prosecution rate by the Israeli military in cases of violence committed by soldiers against Palestinians.

The report by Yesh Din, a human rights group that is often critical of the Israeli military, came a day before a military court's verdict is to be delivered in a high-profile manslaughter case against a soldier.

In its annual report, Yesh Din said the army opened 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians in 2015, but just four of those investigations yielded indictments. The group said the 2015 figures, based on official army data, were the most recent available.

In the fall of 2015, a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted, characterized by Palestinian stabbing and car-ramming attacks on Israelis. The report said that of 76 Palestinians killed in clashes with soldiers in the West Bank in 2015, only 21 deaths resulted in investigations.

"The fact that in 55 incidents no criminal investigation was considered necessary raises doubts about the implementation of Israel's declared policy on investigating civilian fatalities," the report said. It said the data signaled an "inability and unwillingness" to address unlawful conduct.

The Israeli military did not respond to requests for comment.

On Wednesday, a military court is to deliver its verdict in the manslaughter case of a soldier who was caught on video last March fatally shooting an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the West Bank. The case of Sergeant Elor Azaria, who has argued that the attacker still posed a threat, has deeply divided Israel.

Yesh Din spokesman Gilad Grossman said the manslaughter charge against a soldier was "very rare," but that the public uproar sparked by the video made it impossible to ignore.

"There was no way to look aside and not investigate," he said.

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