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IDF soldier dismissed for failing to return fire in Molotov cocktail attack

Military says probe determined the Golani Brigade infantryman didn’t see the firebomb before it was thrown at him, but still should have ‘neutralized’ the suspect

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A Palestinian man is seen with an Israeli soldeir shortly before attacking him with a Molotov cocktail in the northern West Bank, December 19, 2020 (video screenshot)
A Palestinian man is seen with an Israeli soldeir shortly before attacking him with a Molotov cocktail in the northern West Bank, December 19, 2020 (video screenshot)

A soldier from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion has been kicked out of his unit after he failed to open fire at a Palestinian man who threw a Molotov cocktail at him in the northern West Bank on Saturday night, the military said Monday.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the infantryman was stationed at a military post outside the Kedumim settlement, guarding the area. The Palestinian suspect approached the area by car and then got out and began walking toward a bus stop, while closely watching the guard post.

Seeing this as suspicious, the soldier approached the suspect and called for him to halt. In response, the Palestinian man ran at the soldier, yelling, the military said.

The Golani soldier again called the man to stop and cocked his weapon. The suspect then threw the firebomb at the soldier, missing him and causing neither damage nor injury, the IDF said.

The entrance to the Kedumim settlement in the West Bank on February 26, 2019 (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

“The event ended with the suspect throwing the Molotov cocktail at the soldier and fleeing, without the soldier opening fire,” the military said.

The suspect was arrested on Sunday.

According to the IDF, the initial investigation of the incident determined that the soldier had not seen the firebomb in the man’s possession when he called for him to halt.

“Despite the complexity of the situation, it was expected of a soldier to complete the arrest protocol and to return fire in order to neutralize the terrorist — as required by the open-fire regulations,” the military said.

In light of his failure to do so the commander of the Golani Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion decided to dismiss him from his position, though he may be able to return in a few months, the IDF said.

The incident sparked right-wing fury after the soldier didn’t respond to the attack.

“This story is just insane,” Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich tweeted. “But it’s not the soldier’s fault. The judicial system in the State of Israel that behaves as if in Sodom is to blame.”

He appeared to be referencing claims on the right that soldiers fear possible indictment for their actions when responding to attacks or suspected attacks.

Jerusalem Minister Rafi Peretz of the Jewish Home party said the incident should have ended with a “neutralized terrorist.”

“Dead or alive,” he wrote on Twitter, saying IDF commanders must ensure such an incident “doesn’t repeat itself.”

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