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Female IDF soldier files complaint over attack by Israeli amid clashes in Hebron

Servicewoman, a Hebron resident herself, alleges assailant knocked her to ground, beat her with stick and fled

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

Israeli security forces are seen amid altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Israeli security forces are seen amid altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

An Israeli soldier who was lightly injured in an assault by an Israeli man in the West Bank city of Hebron filed a complaint early Sunday against the alleged attacker, who has yet to be arrested.

The soldier was attacked amid clashes between Israelis and Palestinians on Saturday, as thousands of Jewish Israelis spent the weekend in the city for an annual pilgrimage.

She told investigators the assailant grabbed her head and headbutted her, before beating her with a stick and then fleeing. The soldier has described the man’s appearance to police, but he has not yet been caught.

The servicewoman is herself a resident of a settlement neighborhood in Hebron, and serves in the military’s Judea Regional Brigade.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, thousands of Jewish worshipers being escorted by the army to the tomb of Othniel Ben Kenaz attacked Palestinians with stones, who also responded with stone throwing. Ben Kenaz was the first biblical judge after Joshua, and his tomb is believed to be located in the H1 area of Hebron, which is controlled by Palestinians.

The soldier’s mother, Liba, told Kan public radio that the man “attacked her for no reason; she was not involved in anything.”

Israeli security forces deploy riot dispersal means amid altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

“When it comes from a Jew it is painful. They beat her because she was in IDF uniform, not because she did something,” she said. “These are not people from the settlement. We are talking about youth who came to stir things up. This is a minority.”

Liba, the mother of a female soldier who was beaten by an Israeli in Hebron, speaks to Channel 12 news, November 20, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The father of the female soldier told Channel 12 news he is a friend and supporter of the far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir, a resident of the adjacent settlement of Kiryat Arba. He told the network that “a drunken man attacked his daughter,” and that “the vast majority of the guests on Shabbat, as well as all the Jewish residents of Hebron, love the IDF and admire the work of the soldiers.”

Ben Gvir said on Twitter that he spoke to the family of the soldier, “who was attacked yesterday by a drunk person.” He said he told the family that the incident would not “drive a wedge between” the settlers and “the sweet and heroic soldiers.”

In a recording of the call published by the Ynet news site, Ben Gvir said: “There needs to be zero tolerance against the person who did this, and he needs to be caught and prosecuted.”

Palestinian shop owners salvage their merchandise at a market, ransacked during altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Aside from this incident, the IDF said several suspects were detained for assaulting soldiers and were handed over to police.

In a separate violent incident in Hebron on Saturday, the IDF said two Palestinians were injured by stones hurled by Israelis. The IDF said troops treated the two at the scene before they were taken by the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service for further treatment.

Videos published by Palestinian media outlets showed Israelis and Palestinians hurling stones at each other in the streets of Hebron, while another clip showed an Israeli man slapping a Palestinian teenager in the street, before soldiers arrive to disperse the Palestinians though not the Israeli attackers.

The violence was harshly condemned by IDF chief Aviv Kohavi, who said the attacks were “shameful and disgraceful criminal behavior.” Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and other officials also condemned the violence.

On Friday night, one of MK Ben Gvir’s bodyguards was injured in an altercation with settlers in Hebron. Ben Gvir lives in the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron.

In a separate incident in Hebron on Friday night, a large group of masked settlers threw stones at a Palestinian home near the city’s Jewish community, smashing the home’s windows and a car windshield.

The clashes came during traditional events marking the yearly Torah reading of the biblical Abraham’s purchase of the Hebron site the Tomb of the Patriarchs to bury his wife, the matriarch Sarah.

Each year, tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers visit the city — which is under joint Israeli-Palestinian control — resulting in fierce clashes and violence with local Palestinians.

On Friday morning, ahead of the Shabbat events, a Palestinian teenager was arrested with a knife near Hebron.

Israeli security forces deploy riot dispersal means amid altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

The West Bank has been on edge in the past year. This spring, the IDF launched a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 29 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 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 130 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 noted rise in settler attacks against Palestinians and security forces.

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