CAIRO - An Israeli army spokesman has mocked the death of a Palestinian peaceful protester, who was hit in his face by a tear gas canister, on his account on Twitter, triggering uproar among activists.
"I think it is important to remember that this is the official spokesman of the IDF Central Command and it shows what the army thinks of a Palestinian life," Jonathan Pollack, an Israeli pro-Palestinian activist, told The Sunday Telegraph.
Mustafa Tamimi died on Saturday, a day after he was struck in the face by a tear-gas canister fired at close range from an armored military jeep in Nabi Saleh, a village in the West Bank that has seen weekly protests against the Israeli occupation.
As the Palestinian fought for his life in hospital, the Israeli army official appeared to suggest that the Palestinian deserved his fate.
"What was Mustafa thinking running after a moving jeep while throwing stones #fail," Maj Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israeli army Central Command, wrote on Twitter.
"Fail", and its stronger variant "epic fail", are American slang terms, popular on the internet, used in a derogatory fashion to denote extreme stupidity.
Pollack said that Maj Lerner's choice of language was symptomatic of a culture of indifference to Palestinian rights within the Israeli army.
"Mustafa was killed in cold blood, shot from inside an army vehicle at close range," he said.
After his death on Saturday, pictures of Tamimi lying in a pool of blood, his face badly mangled, were published, raising tensions in the West Bank.
During his funeral, clashes renewed when Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at mourners attempting to march on a spring near Nabi Saleh which has been taken over by Jewish settlers.
At least five people were injured, including Pollack who was admitted to hospital after he was held in a chokehold by Israeli soldiers, causing him to lose consciousness.
Tamimi's death renewed human-rights groups' concerns about the Israeli military's use of force in dealing with Palestinian demonstrators.
"The main problem we identified with the use of these weapons is that very often there is a common practice of using them unlawfully," Sarit Michaeli, the communications director for Israeli human-rights group B'tselem, told CNN on Sunday, December 11.
"When soldiers fire tear-gas canisters directly at people they are not only violating the army regulations, they are also using these weapons in a way that is extremely dangerous."
Michaeli says over the course of the past eight years, 20 people have been killed participating in demonstrations for Palestinians.
Reacting to accusations, the Israeli army said it has launched an investigation into the incident.
Under army rules, soldiers are forbidden from firing tear gas canisters directly at protesters.
Though denying charges about extreme reactions by Israeli soldiers, a leaked US diplomatic cable, written last year, quoted a senior Israeli officer as saying that "even demonstrations that appear peaceful" would not be tolerated and would be broken up.
Conceding that non-violent protests presented a particular challenge to Israeli control of the West Bank, the cable quoted Gen Amos Gilad, a senior defense ministry official, as saying: "We don't do Gandhi very well."