Police arrest man for inciting against IDF chief
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Police arrest man for inciting against IDF chief

33-year-old from Jerusalem taken in for questioning after identified in video chanting slogans after Azaria trial

A protester against the verdict in the Azaria trial holds up a sign outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 4, 2017, that calls IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot a 'dog' (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
A protester against the verdict in the Azaria trial holds up a sign outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 4, 2017, that calls IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot a 'dog' (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Police on Saturday arrested a 33-year-old Jerusalem man on suspicion of incitement to violence against IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, after a military tribunal handed down a guilty verdict in the Elor Azaria trial on Wednesday.

Azaria supporters, protesting the soldier’s manslaughter conviction, verbally attacked Eisenkot outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. The protesters shouted slogans such as “Gadi watch out, Rabin is looking for a friend,” referring to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995.

A spokeswoman said Saturday night that because of the slogans, police opened an investigation and began identifying and locating suspects. The Jerusalem man was taken in by police for questioning.

Azaria was unanimously convicted by a military court of manslaughter on Wednesday for killing a wounded Palestinian stabber in Hebron last year. The case has deeply divided the country.

IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian attacker, in Hebron, surrounded by family and supporters as he arrives to hear his verdict in a courtroom at the Kirya military base, Tel Aviv, January 4, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian attacker, in Hebron, surrounded by family and supporters as he arrives to hear his verdict in a courtroom at the Kirya military base, Tel Aviv, January 4, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In the face of strong condemnation of Azaria’s actions by top military brass, including IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, far-right supporters and some politicians had accused the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own.

At least two other people have been arrested for incitement following the Azaria verdict. In addition to Eisenkot, much of the vitriol has been directed towards military judge Maya Heller, who headed the tribunal that convicted Azaria.

Security around Heller and the other two judges on the panel, Lt. Col. Carmel Wahabi and Lt. Col. Yaron Sitbo, was tightened on Wednesday, amid the reports of threats of violence against them on social media and elsewhere.

On Thursday, police arrested two other people on suspicion of calling for attacks against her. Both were released to house arrest later that day, on condition that they stay off social media and keep away from Heller.

According to social media tracking firm Vigo, in addition to the slogans shouted at the trial, some 2,500 posts put online as of Thursday afternoon threatened Eisenkot.

News of the Saturday night arrest came hours after a rally in Tel Aviv against incitement and in favor of national unity, in the wake of the deeply contentious trial.

Police assessed that around 3,000 people were at the event in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.

In attendance were Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and the families of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank in 2014 — Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya January 02, 2017. (Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya January 02, 2017. (Flash90)

Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who also spoke at the rally, called for “unconditional love” and “respect for opinions across the political spectrum.”

The rally was initiated by Ziv Shilon, an IDF officer who lost an arm in an explosion in the Gaza Strip in 2012, after he wrote a heartfelt Facebook post earlier this week condemning the radicalization of the discourse surrounding the deeply divisive case.

In his Facebook post, Shilon wrote: “I, who have not cried even in the most difficult moments, sat today and simply cried over the nation of Israel ripping itself to shreds in unprecedented hate.”

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