JERUSALEM, April 18 (Xinhua) -- An Israeli soldier who last month killed a wounded Palestinian assailant in the West Bank was charged with manslaughter on Monday, the country's military prosecution said.
The March 24 incident occurred after two Palestinian youths stabbed and lightly wounded a soldier at a checkpoint in the flashpoint city of Hebron.
Troops at the scene reacted with fire, killing one of the suspects on the spot and severely wounding the other, 21-year-old Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif.
Video footage showed the suspected soldier firing a bullet into the head of al-Sharif, who was seen lying on the ground, motionless, and surrounded by soldiers.
Sgt. E, whose full name was kept secret under a gag order, said he acted in self-defense, thinking the youth might be hiding a bomb under his jacket.
According to the indictment brought at the Jaffa Military Court in the municipality of Tel Aviv, the soldier was charged with manslaughter and misconduct.
"The soldier took several steps towards the terrorist, aimed at his head and fired a single bullet from short range," according to the indictment.
"The defendant did this in contradiction with the rules of engagement and without operational justification," the indictment added.
Initially, the prosecutors said the 19-year-old soldier was investigated for murder, but they later changed that to manslaughter.
The video footage was taken by an amateur Palestinian photographer in Hebron and released by B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.
Last week, an autopsy confirmed that al-Sharif was killed by the bullet wound to his head. The Hebrew Ha'aretz newspaper reported that the military investigation found that before the shooting, the Sgt. E. said the youth "deserves to die," suggesting the motive for shooting al-Sharif was revenge.
The incident sparked a political and public storm, with many Israelis hailing him as a new national hero. Supporters of Sgt. E. have announced that a "mass rally" will be held on Tuesday in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv's main plaza.
At the same time, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, was outraged at the killing. "The images shown carry all the signs of a clear case of an extrajudicial execution," the human rights expert said in a statement by the UN. "There does not appear to be any provocation on the side of the gravely wounded man," he said.
Rights groups have increasingly accused Israel of using excessive force against the Palestinians.
The incident occurred amid a six-month-long wave of Palestinian knife, shooting, and car-ramming attacks in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Israel.
Since mid-September, at least 190 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. According to Israel, most of them were killed during attacks or attempted attacks.
Many of them were youths, who according to witnesses and video footage were killed after no longer posing a threat. The violence has also claimed the lives of 28 Israelis, two U.S. nationals, and an Eritrean.