Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Sunday praised a soldier who rescued a Palestinian man from a gang of Israeli settlers who attacked him in the West Bank city of Hebron over the weekend, the military said.
This was the IDF chief’s first public comment since footage of the Friday night incident emerged, in which a group of young Jewish men were seen assaulting a Palestinian man in the streets of Hebron before a Golani Brigade soldier rushed in and pulled the youths off the man, sustaining several blows in the process.
“The chief of staff praised the conduct of the soldier, who acted as expected of an IDF soldier and prevented the injury of a Palestinian civilian,” the IDF said in a joint statement with the Israel Police.
On Sunday, Kohavi met with interim police chief Motti Cohen to discuss the case.
“The chief of staff noted that nationalistic violence is a crime that must be prevented, denounced and dealt with fully,” the statement said.
“The police interim commissioner stressed that police forces and border guards would continue to work with IDF troops, overtly and covertly, against all violence and crimes in the [West Bank] to find those involved and bring them to justice,” according to the statement.
As of Sunday evening, no arrests have been made in the case, police said, although the apparent crime was caught on video and the identities of the assailants are known to police.
According to Channel 12 news, law enforcement officers went to the homes of the suspected assailants on Saturday evening. However, none of the suspects were home, the report said. Security sources told the outlet that subpoenas for the questioning of the suspects were left at their homes.
Some of the suspects were reportedly minors, which means that a court order will need to be obtained before they can be interviewed about the incident.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, four people were briefly detained on Saturday in connection with the incident, but were granted a conditional release.
Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right lawyer and politician, said he was representing some of the suspects and had spoken to them on Saturday. He said he could not divulge specifics, but the suspects told him Palestinians 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 Palestinian, later identified as Ibrahim Bader, with one of them putting him in a headlock as others hit and kick him.
Watch: An Israeli soldier rescues a Palestinian guy who was brutally attacked last night by a group of religious Israeli youths in the Old City of Hebron pic.twitter.com/O7zcjnekHy
— Elior Levy • אליאור לוי (@eliorlevy) June 13, 2020
The Golani Brigade 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.”
“God sent him” to save my life, Bader later told Channel 12, saying 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 West Bank city.
“During the night there was friction between Israelis and Palestinians in Hebron that included the throwing of rocks and Molotov cocktails,” a statement from the army said. “IDF soldiers who arrived at the scene dispersed the violent gathering,” the statement said, without elaborating further.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Saturday praised the actions of the soldier. “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.”
Hebron, which is split into areas of Israeli and Palestinian Authority rule, has long been a flashpoint for violence.