The Israel Defense Forces said on Wednesday it would open a criminal investigation into an officer who was filmed cocking his weapon and pointing it at the head of an unarmed Palestinian.
The incident occurred last month during an operation in the village of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron.
“On the surface, this appears to be a grave incident,” the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in an official statement. “The incident was brought to the attention of the officer’s commanders as well as the Military Police, which will open an investigation.”
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem uploaded a clip of the incident to YouTube. B'Tselem has provided cameras to West Bank Palestinians to document clashes between soldiers and settlers.
The clip shows the officer, a second lieutenant, pulling a Palestinian man toward the back of a gas station. Another man, later identified as Rami Abu Maria, follows them, and the officer begins shouting at Abu Maria to leave. He then cocks his weapon and points it at Abu Maria's head for several seconds.
Abu Maria, a taxi driver and married father of four, is a resident of the West Bank town of Beit Ummar. He said that the anxiety he has suffered since the June 18 incident has caused him barely to work or to leave his house.
“It's incredibly scary to have a weapon pointed at your head,” Abu Maria said. “Even my wife and children are still traumatized. I don't understand why that soldier pointed his weapon at my head.”
Abu Maria described the events leading up to the incident. “I was standing at a gas station and saw them arresting my cousin, who also works as a taxi driver,” he said. “I just wanted to ask the soldiers to let him go because there were no drivers at the taxi stand and he could have lost his job. The officer shouted at me and at other people there, ‘Get out of here.' I told him to speak to us politely, and that it is our right to know why my cousin was being arrested. He got angry, cocked his weapon and pointed it at my head. I was stunned and was scared he would shoot me. I thought about my children, my wife and my whole family. My life flashed before my eyes.”
Abu Maria and other residents of the Palestinian town told Israel Hayom that they are on mostly good terms with IDF officers and soldiers in the area. “We have a mutual respect for one another,” Abu Maria said. “Most of the time, officers and soldiers are courteous toward us and we are on good terms. We sometimes have arguments, but they always end with a handshake.”
But he said that the particular officer involved in the incident had previously clashed with residents. “This is not the first time this officer has acted aggressively -- we always have arguments with him.”