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IDF suspends soldiers filmed beating Palestinian detainees in West Bank

Combat troops from religious Netzah Yehuda battalion seen repeatedly kicking two men; military chief Aviv Kohavi condemns ‘repugnant’ assault

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli soldiers from the religious ‘Netzah Yehuda’ battalion are seen beating two Palestinian detainees in the West Bank, in a video published to TikTok on August 15, 2022. (Screenshot: TikTok)
Israeli soldiers from the religious ‘Netzah Yehuda’ battalion are seen beating two Palestinian detainees in the West Bank, in a video published to TikTok on August 15, 2022. (Screenshot: TikTok)

Israeli troops from the religious Netzah Yehuda battalion who were filmed beating two Palestinian detainees in the West Bank last week were suspended from their roles on Wednesday, the military said.

In the video posted to the TikTok video sharing site on August 15, three soldiers were seen repeatedly kicking two Palestinian men near Ramallah as a fourth soldier stands nearby.

According to the Israel Defense Forces’ initial probe of the matter, during operational activity in the area, a suspicious vehicle was identified by the troops. Two Palestinians were detained by the soldiers, “who behaved violently and used unnecessary force against them,” the IDF said.

The commanding officer of the IDF Central Command suspended the soldiers from the battalion and all other combat positions while the Military Police investigates the matter. The findings are to be presented to the IDF’s Military Prosecution.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi issued a statement condemning the soldiers, saying the assault was a “severe incident that is repugnant and directly contradicts the values of the IDF.”

“The soldiers involved in the incident are not worthy of their positions. The incident will be thoroughly examined by IDF commanders and will be investigated by the Military Police,” Kohavi said.

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“We will bring those involved to justice. There is and will be no tolerance in the IDF for this type of behavior,” he added.

Kohavi also said that the conclusions of the investigation “will be disseminated and taught throughout the army.”

Soldiers in the religious Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Infantry Brigade, which operates in the West Bank, have been at the center of several controversies connected to right-wing extremism and violence against Palestinians.

Israel’s minister of Diaspora affairs, Nachman Shai, who served as IDF spokesman for a number of years, said in a tweet on Wednesday that the battalion “needs to be disbanded.”

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

Earlier this year several Netzah Yehuda officers were removed from their positions after an elderly Palestinian American arrested by troops was found dead. Soldiers had gagged Omar As’ad, 78, bound his hands with zipties, and moved him to a courtyard of a nearby abandoned building in the near-freezing January night, but left him there without checking on his condition.

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 religious study.

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