Soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces’ Givati Brigade are suspected of spitting toward the Armenian archbishop and other pilgrims during a procession earlier this month in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday.
It is the latest in a series of incidents of controversial behavior by soldiers in the infantry unit over the past month.
According to the report, two soldiers were detained by police on the spot and a total of three were later probed by the IDF.
The military has decided two soldiers will face disciplinary action for “behaving disrespectfully,” without detailing the accusation.
Church officials said that on November 7, Archbishop Sevan Gharibian, the Grand Sacristan of the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem, along with other senior officials, was leading a procession including pilgrims from abroad to mark the Feast of the Cross.
The parade set off from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and when it reached the area of the souk it passed by some Givati soldiers, some of whom allegedly spat at the participants and the cross they were carrying.
Chancellor of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem Koryun Baghdasaryan told Haaretz that although the church has encountered such behavior in the past from religious Jews in Jerusalem, “this is the first time that soldiers have spat at us, on the cross and priests who were there.”
“They stood there and expressed their hatred for the cross and for Christianity,” he said.
Israel Police officers who were escorting the procession detained two soldiers, one of whom was released after questioning.
On of the soldiers claimed he was only spitting on the ground and not at the pilgrims, the report said.
Church officials filed a complaint with the police and the day after the incident, they were summoned to give a statement.
The police investigation is still ongoing, according to Haaretz.
The IDF said in a statement to Haaretz that “two soldiers who were present at the scene behaved disrespectfully towards the priests,” without detailing the suspected wrongdoing.
“The soldiers were summoned for an immediate investigation, and last week an investigation was held led by the Givati Brigade commander. In the coming days, the soldiers will be tried in a disciplinary court,” the military said.
The military also said “a recruit who passed by a procession of priests spat at the floor” and the “incident is not consistent with IDF values.”
The IDF said that soldier was detained by the police immediately after the incident, and the case against him was closed the same day.
The IDF has recently taken action against several Givati soldiers who have been involved in violent incidents in the West Bank.
On Friday, two of the unit’s soldiers were suspended for beating and taunting left-wing activists in the city of Hebron.
In footage shared by Breaking the Silence, an organization that collects and publicizes mostly anonymous testimony by former Israeli combat soldiers about alleged human rights violations against Palestinians, one soldier can be seen tackling an activist to the ground and punching him in the face.
In a separate video from the scene, a soldier from the same squad was seen confronting an activist and boasting about far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, who is set to become Israel’s next national security minister — an expanded public security minister role.
A week earlier the IDF suspended a soldier after he cursed a Breaking the Silence activist. “You’re a traitor to the country and you’re a son of a whore, son of a bitch. I wish you get cancer all over your body,” the soldier said.
Another three troops of the brigade were suspended last month over an assault on a Palestinian man.