Amid troop violence toward civilians, army warns of repercussions for ‘immoral’ acts

Citing recent beating and taunting of activists, top general denounces ‘grave violence that is not in line with the IDF’s values’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

An Israeli soldier is seen punching a left-wing activist in Hebron in the West Bank, November 25, 2022. (Breaking the Silence)
An Israeli soldier is seen punching a left-wing activist in Hebron in the West Bank, November 25, 2022. (Breaking the Silence)

A senior military commander on Monday warned Israeli troops they would face repercussions for immoral actions, after several troops physically assaulted and taunted activists in Hebron last week, and after a number of soldiers were arrested overnight on suspicion of hurling an explosive device at a Palestinian home.

“Troops who do not behave morally as expected of them will not carry out operational activity until the end of the investigation of the incident,” Brig. Gen. Nadav Lotan, who heads the 162nd Division, wrote in a missive to officers.

The division oversees a number of combat brigades, including the Givati infantry brigade whose soldiers were involved in the Hebron incident.

Lotan instructed all commanders to hold talks with their soldiers to “make plain what is permitted and what is prohibited, and to clarify what is expected of a soldier in the mission of protecting the citizens of the State of Israel.”

In the letter, Lotan cited a video in which a soldier tackled a left-wing activist and punched him in the face in Hebron, as well as a separate clip from the scene of another soldier confronting an activist and boasting about a new reality under far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, who is slated to become the next police minister.

The Israel Defense Forces later suspended two soldiers over the beating and launched an investigation, while the assaulted activist was reportedly placed under house arrest.

Lotan denounced the “grave violence that is not in line with the IDF’s values” and the expression of “political views in a manner that strays from the norms expected of IDF soldiers.”

The troops in the videos serve in the Givati Brigade, which has been embroiled in several other recent behavioral incidents in Hebron that have led to suspensions.

On Monday morning, three soldiers were arrested for allegedly throwing an IED at a Palestinian home near Bethlehem overnight. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The three soldiers involved were all from the Druze community, raising suspicions that the incident was related to the case of Druze teenager Tiran Fero, whose body was seized by Palestinian gunmen from a West Bank hospital after a car crash last week.

The West Bank has been on edge over the past year, with the IDF launching a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 31 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year. Hebron is in the southern part of the territory.

The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left around 150 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

At the same time, there has been a steep rise in settler attacks against Palestinians and security forces.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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