Soldier dismissed after being filmed stealing fruit from Palestinian

IDF investigates after video surfaces showing serviceman taking apples from a vendor, who was hiding in a shop during a violent protest in Hebron

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

An IDF soldier was suspended from his position and faced additional punishment for allegedly stealing fruit from a Palestinian produce vendor in the West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday, the army said.

A video of the incident quickly surfaced on social media, showing the soldier taking apples from the cart, which had been left vacant in the street while the owner was hiding inside a nearby shop during a violent demonstration in the city.

The sergeant, a squad leader from the Givati Infantry Brigade, can be seen running over to other soldiers and handing them pieces of fruit.

An Israeli soldier apparently steals fruit from a Palestinian vendor during a violent demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 10, 2017. (Screen capture)

The Palestinian vendor, watching the apparent theft from inside a shop, can be heard in the video repeatedly calling the soldier a “sneaky thief.”

He adds, sarcastically, “To your health. Good on you.”

In a statement, the army said it investigated the incident and was taking disciplinary measures against the soldier.

“Today, during operational activity in Hebron, an IDF commander took fruit from a Palestinian’s stand. The IDF does not condone this behavior. The incident was investigated and the commander was suspended from duty and punished,” the army said.

On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians took part in violent protests across the West Bank, in a substantial decrease from the thousands who rioted the day before over US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A Palestinian protester pushes a burning tire toward Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus, on December 9, 2017, following a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (AFP PHOTO/ AAFAR ASHTIYEH)

Some 600 Palestinian demonstrators at 20 flashpoints in the West Bank threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli troops, and also set tires on fire and rolled them at soldiers, who responded with riot dispersal weapons such as tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, the army said.

Six Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank, and six were lightly wounded in the clashes, the IDF added.

In a White House speech on Wednesday, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue. He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but practically wall-to-wall condemnations outside Israel.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

The president’s proclamation did not appear to have any practical implication.

After his address, Trump signed a waiver that postponed the move of the American embassy by at least an additional six months, though he called for officials to “immediately” begin preparing for the move. The US State Department has also since said that it has not changed any of its policies following the proclamation.

In a briefing last week, a State Department official was even unwilling to say that Jerusalem is located inside Israel.

But Palestinians called for “days of rage” on Friday and Saturday, and protests were held across much of the Muslim world as well as in some European capitals.

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

Palestinian terror group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada, urged Palestinians to confront Israeli soldiers and settlers, and vowed to continue violence until the liberation of Jerusalem.

Gaza-based terror groups fired rockets at Israel on Friday, with two landing in the southern town of Sderot, one of them in a kindergarten; Israel responded with airstrikes on Hamas targets. On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said two Hamas gunmen were killed in one of the strikes on a Hamas facility in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip.

The rockets that hit Sderot caused minor damage and no injuries.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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