ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Facing public backlash, Netanyahu speaks to father of hero civilian killed by soldier

PM calls for investigation into death of Yuval Castleman, who was shot after taking out terrorists, calls incident a ‘terrible tragedy’ after previously saying only ‘that’s life’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on November 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on November 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Sunday with Moshe Castleman, the father of Yuval Castleman, the armed civilian who was shot dead by a soldier after stopping a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem last week, following fierce public backlash.

“Yuval Doron Castleman is an Israeli hero. Yuval, in an act of supreme bravery, saved many lives, but unfortunately, a terrible tragedy occurred there — the man who saved others was himself killed. This must be thoroughly investigated,” Netanyahu said in a video. “Today, I spoke with Moshe, Yuval’s father. Salt of the earth, a Zionist family, a wonderful family. I and the entire nation mourn with them over the death of an Israeli hero.”

Netanyahu was criticized after saying at a press conference on Saturday that “the reality of armed civilians is that many times it saves lives and prevents a big disaster. In the current situation, the policy should be continued. We may pay a price for it, that’s life.”

The prime minister was referring to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s policy of easing firearm licensing restrictions. The far-right Ben Gvir has promoted the belief that more guns in the hands of civilians will save lives in cases of terror attacks. Applications and approvals for permits have skyrocketed since Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

Yuval Castleman is fatally shot after preventing the continuation of a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem on November 30, 2023 (X screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the opyright law)

Moshe Castleman slammed Netanyahu for the comments, saying that he probably received secondhand information from officials but did not see the video. After their conversation, Castleman said that Netanyahu “didn’t know the facts precisely [when he made his comments], the reality was revealed to him afterwards, and my son was a hero and now [Netanyahu] understands that.”

Moshe Castleman said that he also demanded from Netanyahu that a thorough investigation be held and that those responsible for his son’s death be punished accordingly. According to Castleman, Netanyahu responded affirmatively to the demands.

Yuval Doron Castleman. (Courtesy)

Yuval Castleman was driving on the other side of the street from the bus stop where Thursday’s terror attack — in which three people were killed and five were injured — was taking place. He stopped his car, crossed the road, and engaged the two Palestinian terrorists.

 

A soldier then mistook him for an additional assailant and fired at him. Graphic video showed that Castleman was shot even after he put his gun down and was holding his hands in the air.

After initially saying it had no plans to investigate the incident, the IDF changed tack on Friday, saying that following the findings of an initial probe by the Shin Bet and Israel Police, it was decided that the Military Police’s investigatory unit — known in Hebrew by its acronym Metzah —  would also take part in the probe.

The soldier was set to be questioned Sunday, according to the Ynet news site, while an other soldier on the scene, who was wounded, will be interviewed at a later stage. Moshe Castleman said that the soldier “carried out an execution.”

“[My son] did everything he needed to do so they could identify him. He went down on his knees, opened his jacket to show he didn’t have any explosives on him, yelled at them, ‘Don’t shoot, I’m Jewish, I’m Israeli,’ and they continued to shoot him,” he told Army Radio, adding that Yuval was shot in the jaw and chin, which would have impeded his ability to call for aid.

Moshe Castleman (Channel 12 screenshot, December 3, 2023; used in accordance with clause27a of the copyright law)

Castleman said that an officer who had known his son by chance informed the family that a Military Police investigation into his death would probably commence on Sunday.

Israeli security forces have been condemned in the past for shooting and killing terror suspects even after they have been disarmed and no longer pose a threat, in contravention of open-fire orders. According to a Channel 13 report, the soldier continued shooting at Castleman despite being told by those surrounding him to stop, also hitting nearby civilian vehicles.

Tensions in Israel and the West Bank have been high since October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst through the Gaza border into Israel in a Hamas-led attack, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seizing some 240 hostages.

Israel responded with an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation with the goal of destroying Hamas and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza and securing the release of the hostages.

The IDF has continued to operate throughout the West Bank and police have been on high alert in Israel, in light of concerns about a possible escalation of violence following the release of Palestinian security prisoners in the exchange for abducted Israeli hostages.

The terrorists in Thursday’s shooting were members of Hamas from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher.

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