Gantz commends IDF soldier who helped Palestinian man flee violent Jewish group

Defense minister says trooper who aided man in Hebron ‘acted as every soldier and commander is expected to,’ says army will investigate incident

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Saturday commended an Israel Defense Forces soldier who intervened to help a Palestinian man in the West Bank flee a group of young Jewish men who were assaulting him.

The soldier, from the Golani infantry brigade, came to the man’s aid Friday in the city of Hebron. The incident occurred during a violent confrontation in Hebron between Palestinians and Jews, the army said.

“The Golani soldier who defended a Palestinian resident of Hebron acted as every IDF soldier and commander is expected to,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. “The IDF is committed to the safety of civilians in every place it operates, and I trust the ranking commanders in the IDF will investigate the incident in an orderly manner.”

The IDF’s initial investigation into the incident found that the attackers also assaulted the soldier, who struck back with punches before helping the man escape, then called for reinforcements, according to the Ynet news site.

Golani troops believe the attackers are settlers from the Tel Rumeida enclave in Hebron, who were supported by yeshiva students, and turned over the suspects’ identities to police, Channel 13 reported.

Itamar Ben Gvir, a prominent far-right lawyer and politician, said he was representing some of the suspects and spoke to them on Saturday. He said he could not divulge specifics, but the suspects told him Arabs threw rocks at them.

“This won’t be the first time Arabs in Hebron taunt Jews, then take out a camera,” Ben Gvir wrote on Twitter.

In video footage of the incident, a group of Israelis can be seen attacking the man, later identified as Ibrahim Bader, with one of them putting him in a headlock as others hit and kick him.

The Golani soldier then runs toward the group, pushing one of the Israelis aside and trying to help Bader out of the headlock. The soldier then appears to be hit by the man he pushed, who he then briefly confronts.

The soldier then turns back to Bader, telling the man administering the headlock “to leave him,” which he does.

As the soldier escorts Bader to safety, some of the Israelis run after them. A number of them try to strike Bader, while the soldier continues to try to distance him from the group.

Bader later told Kan news he wished to “thank the soldier who helped me and kept them away from me.”

“The army needs to make sure they don’t attack someone else. These settlers need to be stopped,” he said.

“God sent him” to save my life, Bader told Channel 12, stressing that the attack on him was unprovoked.

Bader, a 31-year-old security guard and father of three, said he was on his way to work when he was attacked.

Human Rights Defenders, the Palestinian group that released the video Saturday, said the incident occurred on Shuhada Street in the Israeli-controlled part of the city.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz after the presentation of the 35th government of Israel at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

A statement from the army said: “During the night there was friction between Israelis and Palestinians in Hebron that included the throwing of rocks and Molotov cocktails.”

“IDF soldiers who arrived at the scene dispersed the violent gathering,” the statement said, without elaborating further.

Security sources said the Israelis were residents of Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron and police had taken over handling of the incident, Channel 12 news reported.

There were also four other suspected violent incidents in the city overnight, with the tires of Palestinian-owned vehicles punctured and several rock-throwing incidents, according to the Ynet news site.

Hebron, which is split into areas of Israeli and Palestinian Authority rule, has long been a flashpoint for violence.

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