Settler activists on Monday night verbally attacked a senior military officer visiting the family of an Israeli killed in a recent terror attack in the West Bank, calling him “traitor” and “murderer,” and chasing him out.
Col. Eliav Elbaz, the commander of the Binyamin Regional Brigade — part of the Israel Defense Forces’ West Bank division — has come under intense verbal abuse by settlers since the killing of four Israelis by Hamas-affiliated gunmen at a gas station near the settlement of Eli on Tuesday, and subsequent attacks by settlers on Palestinians in nearby villages.
Elbaz, who is charged with commanding Israeli troops in the Ramallah area of the West Bank, visited the family of one of the victims, 21-year-old Harel Masood, at their hometown of Yad Binyamin in central Israel.
A video showed a group of people, apparently friends of Masood, chasing Elbaz and another officer out of the area, while shouting “Shame, get out of here traitor, you murderer. My friend’s blood is on your hands, you murderer. Get out of here, murderer.”
Another clip showed a group of people shouting at the officer: “You murdered Masood.”
In a statement, the IDF said the group had “behaved towards [Elbaz] in a way that is not proper and disrespectful,” and he subsequently left the visit to Masood’s family.
“This is an unusual and unacceptable incident for a commander who works day and night for the safety of the residents,” the IDF added.
מח״ט בנימין אל״ם אליאב אלבז הגיע הערב לניחום אבלים בבית משפחתו של הראל מסעוד ז״ל ביד בנימין, וגורש משם בידי חבריו.
תגובת דובר צהל:
מדובר באירוע חריג ושאינו מתקבל על הדעת כלפי מפקד שעושה לילות כימים לבטחון התושבים. pic.twitter.com/8Px1gaLSQF
— יוסי יהושוע – Yossi Yehoshua (@YehoshuaYosi) June 26, 2023
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the incident was “a disgrace and I strongly condemn it.”
“We will not accept or allow for any type of violence against officers or soldiers of the IDF,” Netanyahu said.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he spoken with Elbaz after the incident, calling him “an outstanding officer who dedicates his life for Israel’s security.”
“Harming IDF soldiers and officers is like harming the nation’s flag. We will not allow it and we will punish those who do,” Gallant said.
The far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben Gvir and Ofir Sofer also condemned the incident.
“There is no justification for these terrible calls against an IDF commander who dedicates his life to the defense of Israel,” Smotrich said. “Shame on you.”
“There is no place for behavior like this and calls like these against IDF commanders,” Ben Gvir said.
On Sunday, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi condemned “incitement” against Elbaz, after settler activists called for him to resign.
“You failed, go home,” an image circulating on social media read.
A video shared by settler activists on Friday showed Elbaz pursuing an Israeli man near the settlement of Ateret, telling him to leave the area.
“This is an unacceptable and unethical discourse,” Halevi said in a statement.
In the wake of Tuesday’s deadly terror attack, hundreds of settlers rampaged inside Palestinian towns and villages, setting fire to homes, cars, and even opening fire in some cases, between Tuesday night and Saturday. One Palestinian was killed Wednesday in unclear circumstances.
Several of the incidents have occurred within Elbaz’s area of jurisdiction, the Binyamin Regional Brigade.
Halevi on Monday night, before the assault on Elbaz, reiterated his support for senior commanders in the West Bank, following criticism over the security force’s response to the settler riots.
“Brigade commanders who lead their men, fight terror and protect Israeli citizens, while risking their lives — and also are at the front when they need to prevent harm to Palestinian residents, unfortunately by Israeli citizens — these two missions serve the security of the country and its citizens,” he said at a military ceremony.
“Their work is worthy of all admiration and I back them fully and uncompromisingly,” Halevi added.
The remarks were his first public comments since far-right minister Orit Strock on Monday morning compared Halevi and other security chiefs to Russia’s mutinous Wagner group, after they issued a joint statement condemning the settler rampages as “terrorism.” She later apologized.