Video shows convicted soldiers laughing while beating bound Palestinians

Gag order on footage lifted after troops from Netzah Yehuda battalion are sentenced for abusing Palestinians suspected of aiding a gunman who had killed two of their comrades

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

Video footage of a group of Israeli soldiers beating a pair of handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners earlier this year was allowed to be published on Tuesday, after the last of the servicemen were convicted of abuse the day before.

The video, which was filmed by one of the convicted soldiers, shows the servicemen repeatedly striking the Palestinian suspects in the back of the jeep in which they were riding in early January.

The Palestinian prisoners — a father and son — are suspected of assisting a terrorist who had killed two of the soldiers’ comrades in a shooting attack the month before. The pair were indicted earlier this year.

The footage served as the key piece of evidence in the trial against the five soldiers who this month were convicted of abusing the prisoners and against their commanding officer who was indicted for failing to prevent the assault.

The gag order on the footage was removed by the Israel Defense Forces’ Central District Court in Jaffa following requests from a number of Israeli news outlets. However, the voices of the soldiers had to be distorted and their faces blurred in order to protect their identities, which remained under gag order.

Three of the five soldiers were sentenced to six and a half months in prison, one was sentenced to five and a half months and the fifth was sentenced to two months behind bars. All five were demoted in rank to private and put on probation.

In the video, the soldiers can be seen slapping the two Palestinian suspects repeatedly on the head, saying “we’re having a party” and instructing the prisoners to “say hello” to the camera.

When one of the men fails to do so, one of the soldiers is seen striking his head several times.

Throughout the video, the Palestinian men can be heard calling out in pain.

Though the soldiers were accused in the indictment of “striking the Palestinians with slaps, punches and bludgeons,” only the slaps can be seen in the video released on Tuesday.

All five soldiers are from the religious Netzah Yehuda battalion.

The five soldiers were initially charged with both aggravated assault and aggravated abuse. Two of them were also charged with obstruction of justice for attempting to coordinate their statements before they were interrogated.

Under their plea deals, the soldiers were found guilty of abuse, but avoided the more serious charges of assault.

A photo composite shows Sgt. Yosef Cohen, left, and Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef of the IDF’s Kfir Brigade who were killed on December 13, 2018, in a terrorist shooting attack near the Givat Assaf settlement outpost in the central West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)

One of the convicted soldiers told the court that the trauma of losing friends in the attack last December was what prompted the abuse.

In the attack, Palestinian Asem Barghouti fired at a bus stop outside the Givat Assaf outpost near Ramallah, killing two soldiers stationed there and seriously injuring a third serviceman and a civilian woman, the IDF said.

Barghouti fled the scene, but was arrested at the home of an alleged accomplice in the nearby village of Abu Shukheidim on January 8. The two Palestinians who were beaten were arrested on suspicion they helped Barghouti hide from security forces.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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