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Soldier whose rifle was brandished at ‘hate wedding’ gets 21 days in jail

IDF opens investigation into soldiers who participated in Jewish extremist event where revelers celebrated killing of a Palestinian toddler

File: Far-right Israeli wedding-goers celebrate the killings of the Dawabsha family, brandishing rifles and calling for revenge against Palestinians, December 2015. (screen capture: Channel 10)
File: Far-right Israeli wedding-goers celebrate the killings of the Dawabsha family, brandishing rifles and calling for revenge against Palestinians, December 2015. (screen capture: Channel 10)

A soldier who took part in the wedding last month at which Jewish extremists celebrated the murder of a Palestinian toddler has been sentenced to 21 days in military jail in what army officials are describing as the first step in the army’s response to the jarring footage.

Footage from the wedding shocked Israelis after young men were seen dancing and singing a song calling for revenge against Palestinians, with one man holding a photo of Palestinian 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha, who died in July when his family home in the West Bank village of Duma was set on fire in a nighttime arson attack.

Participants set the photo of Dawabsha on fire during the reveling, while other participants held rifles and guns aloft.

Politicians from across the political spectrum condemned the footage, while the families of the bride and groom alleged a Shin Bet conspiracy meant to justify a broad crackdown on Jewish extremists.

Police opened an investigation into incitement.

The soldier, 21, who serves in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion in the Kfir Brigade, is seen in the video watching from the sidelines as his M-16 assault rifle changes hands among the revelers. He does not attempt to retrieve the weapon. Under army regulations, soldiers must keep possession of their firearms at all times.

“During the event, the soldier did not properly watch over his personal firearm, and the weapon was taken from him by those in attendance and handed from one to another,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said Friday of the disciplinary measure.

The jail sentence is only the first move in a broader response to the wedding footage, IDF sources said, noting that IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot ordered a broad investigation of IDF soldiers who participated in the event.

The investigation is being carried out jointly by the Military Police Corps and the Israel Police.

File: Yakir Ashbel (center), the groom from what came to be known as the 'hate wedding' is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on December 31, 2015 after being arrested on suspicion of racist incitement at his wedding celebration. (Flash90)
File: Yakir Ashbel (center), the groom from what came to be known as the ‘hate wedding’ is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on December 31, 2015 after being arrested on suspicion of racist incitement at his wedding celebration. (Flash90)

On Thursday, police released the groom from the wedding, Yakir Ashbel, after he was detained together with three others on suspicion of incitement.

Police were forced by court order to release Ashbel to house arrest pending more evidence against him.

Separately, Kfir Brigade commander Col. Guy Hazot held a disciplinary hearing Friday for two other soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda battalion, the Maariv daily reported, after allegations surfaced that they had struck Palestinians detainees.

At the end of the hearing, one of the soldiers was expelled from the brigade and another removed from combat service and assigned to noncombat roles that do not come into contact with Palestinian detainees. The behavior was “not befitting what was expected of them, or the IDF’s spirit,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.

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