The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday sentenced a soldier who taunted an activist in the West Bank city of Hebron last week to 10 days in military prison.
The soldier on Friday confronted an activist and boasted about far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, who is set to become Israel’s next national security minister — an expanded public security minister role.
“Ben Gvir is going to sort things out in this place,” the soldier said. “That’s it, you guys have lost … the fun is over.”
Asked by the filming activist, “Why? Am I doing something illegal?” the soldier replied, “Everything you do is illegal. I am the law,” and ordered the activist to step back.
The soldier was wearing a patch velcroed to the back of his military vest that read, “One shot. One kill. No remorse. I decide.” Patches other than those showing the logo of a military unit or an Israeli flag are against military regulations.
There was no immediate statement from the IDF regarding the suspension, but a spokesperson confirmed the details to The Times of Israel.
Ben Gvir said in response that the sentence was excessive.
“To send a soldier to prison for 10 days just because he said ‘Ben Gvir is going to sort things out in this place’ crosses a red line and conveys a harmful message to IDF soldiers. We must not let the anarchists who slander us endlessly win, we must support the soldiers and not weaken them,” he said on Twitter.
Another soldier from his team was seen tackling an activist to the ground and punching him in the face. The second soldier was not immediately punished, aside from being immediately suspended following the assault.
The assaulted activist was reportedly placed under house arrest.
A senior military commander on Monday warned Israeli troops they would face repercussions for immoral actions, following the Hebron incidents, and after a number of soldiers were arrested on suspicion of hurling an explosive device at a Palestinian home.
“Troops who do not behave morally as expected of them will not carry out operational activity until the end of the investigation of the incident,” Brig. Gen. Nadav Lotan, who heads the 162nd Division, wrote in a missive to officers.
The division oversees a number of combat brigades, including the Givati infantry brigade, whose soldiers were involved in the Hebron incident.
Lotan instructed all commanders to hold talks with their soldiers to “make plain what is permitted and what is prohibited, and to clarify what is expected of a soldier in the mission of protecting the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Troops in the Givati Brigade have been embroiled in several other recent behavioral incidents in Hebron that have led to suspensions.
On Sunday, a Givati soldier who in a separate incident cursed a left-wing activist in Hebron earlier this month, was sentenced to remain on base for 28 days, the military said.
In a video, the soldier was heard hurling a stream of invectives at an activist for Breaking the Silence, which leads tours in the flashpoint West Bank city.
“You’re a traitor to the country and you’re son of a whore, son of a bitch. I wish you get cancer all over your body,” the soldier was heard saying. “Come on, get away from my post, fuck off.”
The military said in a statement that the “soldier’s behavior seen in the video is unwarranted and the opposite of what is expected from an IDF troop.”
On Monday morning, three soldiers were arrested for allegedly throwing an IED at a Palestinian home near Bethlehem overnight. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
The three soldiers involved were all from the Druze community, raising suspicions that the incident was related to the case of Druze teenager Tiran Fero, whose body was seized by Palestinian gunmen from a West Bank hospital after a car crash last week.
The West Bank has been on edge over the past year, with the IDF launching a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 31 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year. Hebron is in the southern part of the territory.
The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left around 150 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.
At the same time, there has been a steep rise in settler attacks against Palestinians and security forces.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.