The father of an Israeli soldier who was attacked in the West Bank while trying to arrest a child said Sunday that he was proud of his son’s restraint, even as the child’s family accused the soldier of using too much force.
A video of the soldier being attacked Friday by Palestinian women and children near the village of Nabi Saleh has received some two million views on Facebook and other social media. In the video, the soldier appears to forcefully restrain the boy, whose arm is in a cast. And on several occasions, he chokes the kid and presses his head against a boulder to keep him still. Activists said the boy is 12 years old.
A group of women and children begin grappling with the soldier and punching him repeatedly, while he holds down the boy. At one point, a girl bites his hand.
“We are very proud of what we saw, proud of the restraint that he demonstrated, because without a doubt if [the] women had been injured, it would have ended very differently,” Arnon, the soldier’s father, told Army Radio.
The father criticized those who questioned his son’s actions. “Anyone can sit in their living room and judge the soldiers,” he said.
The mother and sister of the boy were part of a group that can be seen hitting the soldier in the video. They defended their actions in an interview aired Sunday on Israel’s Channel 2, saying the soldier had been using too much force on a child who has his arm in a cast.
“I cannot stand by and see my brother near death,” said the boy’s sister, A’hd Tamimi. “Of course, I will go and help him. The soldier used way too much force. He is a young child with a broken arm, what is he able to do?”
“I am a mother. If a soldier attacks a young child and is doing something to him, I will do everything in order to release him from the hands of the soldier and free him,” the boy’s mother added.
The boy himself told Palestinian television that “I started fleeing from the soldier. In the end, he caught me and threw me on the ground, and hit me and my arm. He slammed my head on the rock.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev, of the Likud party, criticized military protocol, saying current regulations left soldiers defenseless, with their “hands tied behind their back.” She called upon Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to change the protocols regarding opening fire, and claimed that the current rules are “shameful,” according to Channel 2.
“Anyone who tries to harm Israeli citizens and Israel Defense Forces soldiers needs to know that he has forfeited his life. We need to establish immediately that a soldier who is attacked is authorized to respond with fire — period,” Regev said.
According to the IDF, Palestinians were throwing stones at Israeli soldiers during a protest. Weekly demonstrations against the settlements are held near Nabi Saleh, west of Ramallah. It is regularly a site for altercations between Israeli security personnel and pro-Palestinian activists.
The boy in the video was seen throwing stones “and therefore it was decided to arrest him,” the military said in a statement. Due to the confrontation by the women and children, however, it was decided to halt the arrest, the IDF said.
After the group attacks the soldier, another IDF soldier arrives, and helps push some of the attackers off, and the first soldier steps out of the fray, leaving the boy. As he walks away, he pulls the pin on a tear gas grenade and throws it into the crowd of activists and journalists.
The IDF said it arrested two other Palestinians who threw stones, but that the commanding officer called off the arrest of the boy because of the “violent confrontation.” Haaretz reported that one of the two arrested was a foreign activist.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.