3 members of Breaking the Silence suspected of assaulting a public official, engaging in behavior that could disrupt the peace
By TOI STAFF
A left-wing activist who was assaulted by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday was reportedly banned from the city for 14 days and placed under house arrest for five days.
In all, three activists from the left-wing group Breaking the Silence were interrogated by police several times since Friday for their involvement in the violent altercation with soldiers posted in the flashpoint city, the Haaretz daily reported.
The Sunday report said two of the activists, including the one who was beaten by a soldier, were suspected of assaulting a public official and engaging in behavior that could disrupt the peace. Police also claimed that the activist who was beaten had tried to evade arrest.
A third activist who was present during the incident was also banned from the city for two weeks but was not put under house arrest. Police reportedly also confiscated the activists’ phones.
In footage shared by Breaking the Silence, which collects and publicizes mostly anonymous testimony by former Israeli combat soldiers about alleged human rights violations against Palestinians, the soldier can be seen tackling the activist to the ground and punching him in the face.
The activist suffered a facial fracture as a result, the report said.
Police have accused the activists of violating a military order by entering Palestinian-controlled territory, according to Gonen Ben Itzhak, an attorney representing the assaulted activist.
The activist claims that he traveled to the mostly Palestinian city with a larger group and was unaware of the restrictions. Breaking the Silence said the group came to Hebron to meet with local Palestinian families.
Ben Itzhak said his client denies assaulting the soldier. Riham Nassra, an attorney who represents the two other activists, said police were trying to incriminate her clients despite clear evidence to the contrary.
“Despite videos documenting who the aggressor was and who the victim, the two activists were interrogated extensively. Police have added new charges with the clear purpose of portraying the victims as guilty and tarring a nonviolent struggle. One of them was shoved by the soldiers several times and was sent to house arrest,” Nassra said.
“Apparently, the spirit of the designated minister is already felt on the ground,” she added, referring to the pending appointment of far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir as national security minister.
In separate footage from the scene of the altercation, a soldier from the same squad could be seen praising Ben Gvir, saying, “Ben Gvir is going to sort things out in this place. That’s it, you guys have lost… the fun is over.”
On Thursday, lawyers representing the soldiers called on legal authorities to prosecute the activists.
“The picture being portrayed is partial and manipulative. The soldier was trying to arrest a citizen after he and others interfered with their mission, and cursed and assaulted soldiers,” said attorney Adi Keidar.
In the wake of the incident on Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said that two soldier involved in the incident, members of the Givati infantry brigade, were suspended. The soldier who was seen physically assaulting the activist was suspended for 28 days. It was not immediately clear for how long the second soldier was suspended.
“These are very serious offenses,” said retired Maj.-Gen. Israel Ziv, a former head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate. “Such incidents damage the most significant pillar of the IDF. Once you put on the uniform you become an official entity, subject to authority and expected to fulfil your duty based on orders and not your personal judgment,” he told Kan public radio on Sunday.
Also speaking to Kan, the father of the assaulting soldier said his son was “a hero.”
“All of the soldiers who were present during the incident are heroes,” he said. “We’ve been seeing their activities in Hebron for over six months, witnessing their efforts. Unfortunately, anarchists decided to bother them while they were doing God’s work… They came to pick on them, but you won’t see that in the videos.”
Emanuel Fabian and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.
Times of Israel