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Israeli soldiers cheer as sniper shoots unarmed Palestinian near Gaza border

Israeli forces aim their weapons towards Palestinian demonstrators on March 31, 2018 during clashes in occupied West Bank city of Hebron (al-Khalil). (Photo by AFP)

A video has circulated online shot by Israeli soldiers as one of them, a sniper, targets an unarmed Palestinian near the border fence in the besieged Gaza Strip.

In the video, which was widely shared on the Twitter and WhatsApp messaging application Monday, the soldiers can be heard talking about the target and how to shoot him, as the sniper trains his rifle on the Palestinian, who does not appear to be armed and is several meters away from Gaza’s fence.

In the footage, the commander is heard asking the sniper before he takes the shot, “Do you have a bullet in the chamber? Are you [trained] on him?”

The sniper and the other soldiers are heard rejoicing following the "successful" shooting.

Another soldier is heard saying, “Wow, [he] shot him in the head.”

A fellow accomplice, who is filming the incident, then exclaims, “Of course I filmed it,” in response to a question, before calling it “a legendary video.”

“Yes!” “What a fabulous video,” the others cry with joy. ”He flew in the air.”

The victim is then seen carried away by a group of Palestinians. It is, however, unclear whether he survived the shooting or not.

Reacting to the shooting, the Israeli military told The Times of Israel that based on initial investigations, the incident could have occurred several months ago.

Chief of Staff of the Israeli military, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot and its top commanders promised to investigate the video “without hesitation.”

The footage has drawn widespread condemnation from Israeli lawmakers and human rights organizations.

Rights bodies have argued that the video represents what is the rule for the Israeli army, rather than the exception.

The Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, said the military issues “illegal orders telling soldiers to shoot people who endanger nobody.”

The NGO, which recently led a campaign urging soldiers to refuse to shoot Palestinian protesters in Gaza, said incidents as such have occurred “hundreds of times” over the last few weeks.

The organization dismissed the regime’s promise to investigate the shooting as a “meaningless” stunt that would “cover up the truth.”

Breaking the Silence, another anti-occupation Israeli NGO that collects reports about abuses by the regime soldiers in the Palestinian territories, shared the video on Twitter and said, “These are the orders. Take responsibility.”

“It isn’t from several months ago; it has been like this for 51 years,” the NGO said, in reference to the years during which Israel has maintained military rule over Palestinians in the West Bank.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Israeli Arab Joint List party, denounced the “horrifying” footage and called for the sharpshooter and the soldier who filmed it to stand trial.

“A video that horrifies the mind. Calls of joy at taking a life and what appears to be the execution of someone who did not threaten anyone,” Odeh wrote on Twitter.

The incident comes shortly after Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja was shot by Israeli forces along Gaza’s eastern border near Khan Younis despite wearing a bulletproof vest imprinted with the word ‘Press’ on it. He later died of his wounds in hospital.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 31 Palestinians, including Murtaja, have been killed by Israeli forces since March 30, when the demonstrations began in the coastal enclave.

On that day, Palestinians marched to the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The demonstrations turned violent after Israeli forces used tear gas and live fire against the protesters.

Israel has tightened military presence on the Gaza fence, deploying armored vehicles, back-up special forces and snipers. The regime’s forces have permission to open fire on unarmed Gazans.

The Return rallies culminate on May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes in 1948 and Israel was created.

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