IDF probes army violence against left wing activists in Hebron Hills

2021-09-19 07:31:33

The IDF is investigating a violent attack by its soldiers against left-wing activists who were on their way to bring water to Palestinians in the village of a-Tawani located in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank.

In one incident captured on video an activist was placed in a choke hold. In another video an IDF major can be seen lunging at a man from behind with such force that he was swept off his feet and thrust into the air. He tumbled as he landed on the ground, injuring his face.

The activist, in his 60s, who was wearing a gray T-shirt and jeans, could be seen in one of the videos with blood on his face.

He was later taken to Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv where he is scheduled to undergo eye surgery for damage to his tear duct.

The IDF said that “the officer’s conduct as reflected in the video does not match what is expected of an IDF officer – the incident is being investigated.”

IDF soldiers clash with left-wing activists in South Hebron Hills (Credit: Combatants for Peace)

It added, however, that a preliminary investigation showed that the activists had held a demonstration that blocked the entrance to the Avigayil outpost. 

The IDF accused the activists of attacking soldiers, cursing and threatening them. It added that some of the activists had attempted to lie on the wheels of the military jeep.

A police force present at the scene arrested five of the activists, the IDF said.

The videos released by activists and others on social media, however, do not show violence on the part of the activists. Instead they are holding signs, Palestinian flags and banging on a drum. They congregated around a tractor with a small flatbed carrying a steel cylinder of water and a large sign on top that said, “water access for all.” 

In the video, soldiers could be seen throwing stun grenades at the activists and in one case pushing a man who was walking away from the road across the barren rocky ground.

The activists were from the left-wing organizations Combatants for Peace, All That’s Left and the Jordan Valley Coalition.

MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) was among the protesters. After the event he wrote a letter to Defense Minister Benny Gantz asking that he investigate the matter and punish the soldiers.

“For 40 years I have been participating in demonstrations in the occupied territories, but I have never seen such blatant soldiers’ violence against Israeli demonstrators as I witnessed today,” Raz tweeted.

Tuly Flint, the Israeli coordinator for Combatants for Peace who had been a Lieutenant Colonel in the IDF Reserves told The Jerusalem Post that that the event had been peaceful and that there had been no attempt to attack or curse the soldiers.

The group had wanted to bring water to Palestinians, whose water well had been closed off. 

“I do not know what the amount of water on a small tractor can do,” Flint said, adding that it was important to push against water inequity, particularly for Palestinians in Area C who on average have access to only 20 liters day or as in this case, no water at all.

The first soldiers who arrived at the scene came in an ambulance, Flint said, and declared that the area was a closed military zone. “They did not provide any documentation,” he said. When he tried to ascertain what was happening, soldiers thew on the ground in “George Floyd style,” he said. 

After a minute and a half, he said, they arrested him. His hands were tied with a plastic band and he was placed in a jeep with four others, Flint said. They were driven around for three hours before they arrived at the police station in Hebron, where they were left in the vehicle, he said.

They were released at about 7 p.m., Flint said.

Right-wing politicians defend the IDF actions. 

Yamina faction head MK Nir Orbach charged that the IDF had rushed to judgment by stating that the officer’s actions were inappropriate before the investigation had been concluded.

The video images, he said, only showed a partial story and should not be determinative.

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