Dozens rally in Beit Shemesh in support of Hebron soldier
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Dozens rally in Beit Shemesh in support of Hebron soldier

100 demonstrators demand release of ‘hero of Israel’ who killed disarmed Palestinian assailant; MKs blast city for endorsing event

Residents of Beit Shemesh attend a March 28, 2016, rally in solidarity with a soldier who shot a Palestinian assailant in Hebron the week before. (Yaacov Lederman/Flash90)
Residents of Beit Shemesh attend a March 28, 2016, rally in solidarity with a soldier who shot a Palestinian assailant in Hebron the week before. (Yaacov Lederman/Flash90)

Supporters of the Israel Defense Forces soldier charged with murder for shooting a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last week rallied in the central city of Beit Shemesh on Monday, calling for his release from custody.

Approximately 100 people attended the demonstration at the Route 38 junction “demanding the release of a hero of Israel,” the Walla news website reported.

Israeli flags and signs, reading “Dear family, Beit Shemesh is with you,” and “Bravo to the IDF and [its] soldiers,” were seen at the Monday evening rally.

The flier advertising the event — which called the soldier a “national hero” — was published on the municipality’s website ahead of the demonstration.

Despite a gag order imposed on his personal details, the flier included the soldier’s full name and photo.

Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul confirmed to the website that the demonstration was organized by elected officials and city employees, but said the municipality had not taken a stance on the issue.

“The municipality does not intervene in national public issues,” he said.

The soldier in question was filmed Thursday shooting a wounded and nearly motionless Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in the West Bank city of Hebron.

A flyer advertising a rally on March 28, 2016 in solidarity with an IDF soldier facing murder charges for shooting a Palestinian assailant in Hebron the week before. (screen capture: Walla)
A flyer advertising a rally on March 28, 2016 in solidarity with an IDF soldier facing murder charges for shooting a Palestinian assailant in Hebron the week before. (screen capture: Walla)

The incident quickly escalated into a national debate about the IDF’s rules of engagement and its use of force in regards to Palestinians.

On Friday, the soldier was charged with murder, drawing anger from his family, right-wing politicians and others, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), who claim the army sold him down the river.

Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin criticized Beit Shemesh officials for endorsing the rally, saying that “the decision to take an active part in opposition to the IDF, its leadership and core values must not be ignored.

“Public funds are not to be used to suit personal political aspirations, or incite a rebellion against the chief of staff of the IDF,” she continued.

Verbin also urged Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to intervene in the matter and prevent local authorities from acting against the army.

Dov Lipman, a former MK and a resident of Beit Shemesh, also denounced the city for endorsing the rally.

“I condemn the Beit Shemesh municipality for publishing the name of the soldier from the Hebron story and for entering into the political storm by taking sides in a complex issue, which is under investigation by the IDF,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, the soldier’s family was moved to a secure location after receiving death threats and abusive messages.

According to their lawyer, the family was inundated with threatening calls after their home phone number was published on a number of Palestinian social media sites.

In the Knesset on Monday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon denounced MKs who have backed the soldier. This is “a case of a soldier gone bad, not a hero,” he said.

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