Ultra-Orthodox battalion soldiers suspended after clashing with border guards

2 servicemen from Netzah Yehuda scrap with cops while trying to free their friends, who were arrested for throwing rocks at Palestinian homes

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

Illustrative. Religious Jewish soldiers attend a swearing-in ceremony on May 26, 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Illustrative. Religious Jewish soldiers attend a swearing-in ceremony on May 26, 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The military suspended two soldiers from an ultra-Orthodox battalion on Sunday after they allegedly fought with border guards the day before in an attempt to get their friends released from police custody.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, a group of some 50 settlers illegally staged a protest on the outskirts of the city of Ramallah in the central West Bank, during which a number of rioters threw stones at Palestinian homes.

Three suspected rock throwers were arrested by Border Police officers who were at the scene.

The army said two in-uniform soldiers from the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion of the Kfir Brigade attempted to free the two suspects and as a result “a clash broke out.”

“The Border Police officers handed over the soldiers for their commanders to handle them,” the army said in a statement.

The two servicemen were suspended from their positions pending a joint investigation of the incident by the IDF and Border Police, the army said.

News of the highly irregular clash was first reported by the Kan public broadcaster.

The illegal protest outside Ramallah was one of several demonstrations held in Israel and the West Bank on Saturday night, amid an increase in the number of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in recent weeks.

Soldiers in the Netzah Yehuda battalion, which operates mostly in the West Bank, have been at the center of several controversies connected to right-wing extremists and Palestinians.

In 2016, a soldier from the battalion was sentenced to 21 days in military prison for taking part in what was called the “wedding of hate,” in which extremists celebrated the murder of a Palestinian toddler several months earlier.

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

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 study.

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