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Israelis and Palestinians are closely following the case of an Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter in the death of a Palestinian man. The soldier's sentencing hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. A bystander captured the shooting on video. He's a Palestinian from the city of Hebron. As NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports, he is urging Palestinians to pick up cameras instead of stones.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Early one morning in March of last year, a Palestinian shoemaker named Imad Abu Shamsiyeh was drinking coffee with his wife at their home in the West Bank city of Hebron.
IMAD ABU SHAMSIYEH: (Through interpreter) We heard shooting. My wife grabbed my video camera, and we ran to the roof of the house. Then I started filming.
KAKISSIS: He zoomed in and saw someone lying on the ground, surrounded by Israeli soldiers - not so unusual in this violent city.
ABU SHAMSIYEH: (Through interpreter) I wasn't sure if the man was Israeli or Palestinian. Blood was gushing from him.
KAKISSIS: The man was Abed Fatah al-Sharif, a 21-year-old Palestinian who had been shot and badly wounded after he stabbed an Israeli soldier. Sharif lay nearly motionless. Then a soldier shot him in the head from close range. Abu Shamsiyeh immediately sent his video to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group which verified and published the video on its website.
The video went viral. It was shown during the trial of Sergeant Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who fired that shot to Sharif's head. A military court convicted him of manslaughter earlier this month. The case deeply divided Israelis. Abu Shamsiyeh, who's 45 and has seven children, has been filming violence here for five years, spurred by what's happened to his own family.
ABU SHAMSIYEH: (Through interpreter) My daughter was injured by settlers. My two sons and wife were attacked and put in jail. I was attacked and put in jail. We've been the target of a lot of violence by the sheer fact that we live here.
KAKISSIS: They live practically adjacent to an enclave of Jewish settlers near the center of the sprawling city. The proximity breeds conflict between the two sides, but Abu Shamsiyeh tells young Palestinians that cameras are much more powerful weapons than stones or knives or fists.
ABU SHAMSIYEH: (Through interpreter) We want to change that in our children. We tell them, use your camera to show what's happening here. Do not use violence.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: (Speaking Arabic).
ABU SHAMSIYEH: (Speaking Arabic).
KAKISSIS: At a recent training session at his home, he shows two young girls how to film a steady video. Nida Abu Haikal, and 11-year-old in a glittery, red sweater, tells me she recently hit a settler boy after he cussed at her.
NIDA ABU HAIKAL: (Through interpreter) But what did that do - nothing. He actually hit me back and pulled my hair. I should have just taken a picture.
KAKISSIS: But the videography now works both ways. Just down the street, Israeli settler Tzipi Schlissel is also taking video. She's zooming in on a Palestinian man arguing with a soldier who's asking for his I.D. Her father was stabbed to death here in 1998, and she sees filming as a way to highlight Palestinian violence.
TZIPI SCHLISSEL: And I can't be every place always, but I think this is part of the war now.
KAKISSIS: Schlissel says she's advocating settlers photograph more after seeing the impact of Abu Shamsiyeh's video of the soldier. Polls show that most Israelis want the soldier pardoned. Abu Shamsiyeh says however the case ends up, what he thinks matters most is that the video brought so much attention to what Palestinians face in Hebron. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Hebron, the West Bank.
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