A military court in southern Israel authorized a two day extension of the detention of an Israeli soldier caught on video shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head after he was already subdued, as dozens of supporters protested his arrest outside.
Prosecutors were seeking to extend the detention of the soldier by nine days in order to continue the investigation against him, in a case that has gripped the country and sparked political tensions..
In delivering his ruling at the Kastina military court near the city of Ashdod, the judge said that he found reasonable suspicion of an illegal shooting, but noted that the evidence in what he called a "complicated" incident was inconclusive, Ha'aretz reports.
Army prosecutors on Friday charged the IDF soldier with murder at the Jaffa Military Court after an initial investigation concluded that he shot the disarmed and wounded Palestinian assailant after the latter no longer constituted a threat.
An autopsy of the Palestinian assailant, which will determine whether or not the soldier's shot was fatal, could impact whether the soldier will ultimately be charged with murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide, according to multiple media reports.
“We are trying to decide what he could be charged with, including manslaughter,” the prosecutor said at Tuesday’s hearing.
The 19-year-old soldier, whose identity has been kept secret under a gag order, reportedly winked at family members in the public gallery, according to Ha'aretz.
Protesters outside the court called for the soldier's release despite video footage shared widely online showing him shoot the Palestinian in the head without any apparent provocation.
Top military officials have strongly condemned his behavior and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has pledged that the incident will be treated with "utmost severity".
But far-right politicians have defended the soldier, and members of his family said he was being publicly "lynched" and would not receive a fair trial.
Ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, currently a member of the opposition, was among those in court in support of the soldier, and to "balance the crude intervention of the prime minister and defense minister" in the process, as he told reporters after the hearing.
"I'm not determining if (the soldier's) conduct was correct or wrong, what's clear is I prefer a soldier who made a mistake and stayed alive over a soldier who hesitates and is murdered by a terrorist," Lieberman said.
Video of Thursday's incident in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron spread widely online threatening to further inflame tensions amid a wave of violence that erupted in October.
The video, released by left-wing Israeli NGO B'Tselem, shows the soldier shooting a 21-year old Palestinian assailant in the head as he lay on the ground, having already been subdued.
"The suspicion emanating from the investigation is that the shooting was carried out intentionally and without need," prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Adoram Rigler told the court.
A second video appeared online on Sunday showing the soldier shaking hands with far-right activist Baruch Marzel while the body of the assailant was removed from the scene.
Defense lawyers said the Palestinian could have had an explosive device.
"There was no bomb-squad investigation, even if the officer kicked away the knife," said defense lawyer Ilan Katz.
An investigation by Israel's Magen David Adom medical services released on Monday seemed to corroborate these claims, saying medical treatment of the subdued Palestinian had been delayed because he had not been declared safe to approach.
“The risk of an explosive device or other dangerous element had not been removed, due to the fact that the terrorist was supine on the ground with a jacket (on a hot day) and that no security officer in the field had dispelled the concern,” the organization said in a statement.
These claims, however, directly contradict those of the Israeli Defense Forces, who say the assailant had been checked for a suicide belt before the shooting.
(Staff with agencies)