IDF officer, 4 soldiers arrested for allegedly beating Palestinian suspects

Servicemen from religious Netzah Yehuda battalion suspected of attacking detainees as revenge for terror attack in which two comrades were killed

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Soldiers in the IDF's Netzah Yehuda Battalion at the Peles Military Base in the northern Jordan Valley, August 2013. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Illustrative: Soldiers in the IDF's Netzah Yehuda Battalion at the Peles Military Base in the northern Jordan Valley, August 2013. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Military Police on Wednesday arrested an officer and four soldiers who allegedly beat two Palestinian suspects who were in their custody, the army said.

The five serve in the Kfir Brigade’s religious Netzah Yehuda Battalion.

The servicemen were expected to be brought before a military judge on Thursday in order to remand them in police custody, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The two Palestinian suspects were arrested in the Ramallah area as part of the army’s efforts to locate a terrorist who opened fire at a bus stop outside the nearby Givat Assaf outpost, killing two soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion and seriously injuring a third member of the unit and a civilian woman.

The IDF refused to comment on the exact date of the arrest and alleged beating.

The five servicemen are suspected of beating the two Palestinian detainees as a form of revenge for their fallen comrades.

Israeli soldiers conduct raids in West Bank village of Kobar on December 31, 2018, in search of Palestinian terrorist who committed deadly shooting attack outside the Givat Assaf outpost earlier in the month. (Israel Defense Forces)

Soldiers in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, which operates mostly in the West Bank, have been at the center of several controversies connected to right-wing extremists and Palestinians, especially of late.

Last month, two members of the battalion were dismissed from duty after they fought with a group of Border Police officers who had arrested civilian friends of theirs for throwing rocks at Palestinian homes in Ramallah.

Also in December, the Military Police launched an investigation into the actions of Netzah Yehuda soldiers who shot dead an East Jerusalem man they said tried to ram them with his car at a West Bank checkpoint. An initial investigation into the incident found that no such ramming attempt had occurred.

In 2016, a soldier from the battalion was sentenced to 21 days in military prison for taking part in what was called the “hate wedding,” in which extremists celebrated the murder of a Palestinian toddler several months earlier.

Soldiers from the battalion have also been convicted in the past of torturing and abusing Palestinian prisoners.

The battalion was created so that ultra-Orthodox and other religious soldiers can serve without feeling they are compromising their beliefs. The soldiers do not interact with female troops to the same extent as other servicemen and are given additional time for prayer and study.

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