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Backlash grows over police shooting of Israeli civilian after Jerusalem attack

Friends and relatives gathered Monday to mourn the death of Yuval Castleman, the Israeli civilian who responded to a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem, shooting and killing the perpetrators before he himself was shot dead by an Israeli reservist soldier.

Dozens traveled to Castleman’s parents’ home in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Tiv’on to attend his shiva, the traditional seven-day Jewish mourning period, as anger has grown across the country at the circumstances leading to his death.

Castleman, a former police officer, was driving to work Thursday when he saw two gunmen open fire at a bus stop in Jerusalem. Moments later, he had rushed to the scene.

“He saw the attack, and he just stopped his car, got out of his car, took his gun out, and he just charged at the terrorists and he killed them both,” Guy Itzkovich, Castleman’s friend, told CNN at the shiva.

A video showed two uniformed soldiers scrambling out of a red car and grabbing their guns. A third person, an army reservist according to Israel’s military, appears to have mistaken Castleman for an attacker and began shooting at him. Bullets from one of the Israeli soldiers may have also struck Castleman, the IDF said.

“When the soldiers saw him I’m assuming they thought he was a terrorist. But then when Yuval realized that that’s what they’re thinking, he opened his jacket to show he had nothing underneath, and got down on his knees. He opened his hands, so they could see he had nothing in his hands,” said Itkovich.

“He was shouting in Hebrew. He was shouting ‘I’m an Israeli.’ He threw his wallet, his identification, on the way so they could see he’s an Israeli. And they just shot him. They gunned him down,” he said.

Israeli police said the attackers opened fire on civilians at the bus station at about 7:40 a.m. on Thursday. - Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Israeli police said the attackers opened fire on civilians at the bus station at about 7:40 a.m. on Thursday. - Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Castleman died at the Shaare Zedek medical center later Thursday. Three other victims were killed in the attack, for which Hamas claimed responsibility.

At Castleman’s shiva Monday, his father Moshe praised his “heroic” son.

“Yuval did what he was expected to do because all his life he was that sort of person,” he told CNN. “He was trained in the security environment and he did what was requested of him because it’s decreed that we have to help one another.”

Moshe said there should be an investigation into his son’s fatal shooting “to prevent such a thing happening again.”

Itzkovich, who served in the police alongside Castleman, accused the soldier who shot him of violating protocols.

“There’s certain things that you’re not supposed to do. Even if Yuval was a terrorist – even if the citizen that they thought was a terrorist was a terrorist – the man had surrendered,” Itzkovich said. “By these protocols, they’re supposed to arrest him. He should never have been shot.”

Itzkovich expressed his disbelief that the soldier had “ignored” the protocols he said are drilled into those serving in the Israeli police and military.

“They taught us in the army, and in the police force, that the protocols are very, very strict. It’s like a mantra,” he said.

“If you wake me up at 4 in the morning, I will tell you exactly what those protocols are. I trust the army, and I trust the police force, and I know that they gave the orders exactly as they gave it to me, when I was there. And this guy, this soldier – he ignored them. It’s not that he didn’t know them, he just ignored them. And that was what my friend got killed for. It’s devastating.”

The IDF originally said it would not investigate the incident. But, amid widespread media coverage of Castleman’s death, Israel Police said they would investigate it, and the IDF then said it would join the investigation because the suspect in the killing is a soldier.

IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said he felt “deep sorrow” for Castleman’s “tragic death.”

“The IDF has clear instructions on how and when to shoot, and all of this is very clear. And there’s a clear moral rule - when someone puts their hand up - he should not be shot,” he also said, cautioning that “until the investigation is not over, we cannot indict a person. We have to wait for its outcomes.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called for a “thorough inquiry” into the shooting, describing Castleman as “a hero of Israel.”

But that call followed an earlier statement by Netanyahu that prompted fury in parts of Israel. In a widely panned comment on the incident, Netanyahu defended the right for Israeli citizens to bear arms and suggested that some civilian deaths were the “price” that came with such a policy. “That’s life,” he said.

“We know that during upticks of terror over the past decade, and even before that, having armed civilians often saved lives and prevented a bigger catastrophe,” Netanyahu said in a press conference to Tel Aviv on Saturday night. “Under the current circumstances, we should continue with this policy, I surely support it. We might have to pay prices, but that’s life.”

Asked for his response to Netanyahu’s comments, Castleman’s father said he would not discuss them “because the Prime Minister spoke later and corrected what he had said, and after he understood what had happened, he said that my son was a hero – and that’s exactly how it was.”

Applications to carry private firearms in Israel surged in the month following the Hamas attack on October 7, according to the Ministry of National Security. As of October 30, the ministry had received 180,500 new applications with its centers receiving an average of 10,000 new requests per day – compared to 850 new requests per week prior to the terror attacks.

Israel’s Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir has voiced his desire for more Israelis to carry firearms.

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