Israel’s military has jailed a soldier for 10 days after he assaulted a Palestinian activist trying to escort a US journalist around Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
In a video posted by Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker, the soldier is seen grabbing Issa Amro by his neck and arm and throwing him to the ground.
He then kicks Mr Amro before another soldier pushes him away.
Israel’s national security minister has given his full support to the soldier.
“I never had a source assaulted in front of me until today when an Israeli soldier who stopped my interview did this,” wrote Mr Lawrence, whose post has had more than 7.5 million views.
The journalist is also a best-selling author, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.
The account which the Israeli military gives of events differs from that of Mr Wright.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the soldier was guarding a military post in Hebron and asked a Palestinian who approached it to step away.
“In response, the Palestinian began recording and cursing the soldier. A verbal confrontation followed, which soon became a physical confrontation, during which the soldier hit the Palestinian,” the IDF stated.
Mr Wright said the statement was “misrepresenting” events leading to the assault.
“The soldier initiated the encounter. Amro did not curse or interfere only asked that he call the commander.”
“Before the assault the other soldiers were afraid to intervene although I warned them it was getting out of hand,” he went on.
Several other video clips shared on social media show parts of the encounter.
On his Twitter account, Mr Amro said: “I didn’t touch the soldier, my hands were behind my back not to give any excuse.”
The IDF has not commented on the inconsistencies.
Its international spokesman, Lt Col Richard Hecht said: “The soldier did not act as expected and did not follow the IDF code of conduct. The IDF will not hesitate, despite provocations, to preserve its ethics and morals.”
The IDF said that after an initial inquiry, the soldier was jailed in a military prison and would be suspended from active combat duty. It added that his service in his current unit would be examined.
Commenting on Twitter, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right firebrand who lives in a settlement on the outskirts of Hebron, called the sentence “a disgrace”.
“I fully back the soldier who didn’t stay silent. Soldiers need to be given support, not jail time,” he said.
He described Mr Amro as an “anarchist who frequently pesters IDF soldiers in Hebron”.
Tensions often run high in Hebron making it a flashpoint for violence. It is the only Palestinian city in the West Bank which has Jewish settlers living in the heart of the Old City, part of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians since 1997.
Hebron is divided into two areas called H1 and H2. Some 200,000 Palestinians live in H1, which is under full control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
However, Israel has security control over H2, where several hundred hardline Jewish settlers and more than 30,000 Palestinians live. The PA is only responsible for civilian matters for Palestinian residents who face tight restrictions on their movements with a series of permanent checkpoints in the area operated by Israeli forces.
Hebron contains a contested religious site called the Tomb of the Patriarchs – or Ibrahimi Mosque – which is revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians as the burial place of Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic), Isaac and Jacob. It is the second holiest site in Judaism and the fourth in Islam.
Mr Amro is well known in Hebron as an anti-occupation activist. He is a fluent English speaker, who often gives tours of H2 for Israeli and international journalists and NGOs.
He has been arrested by the PA too – for his social media posts allegedly criticising the authority – and repeatedly by Israel.
Late last year, an Israeli military court ruled to remove Mr Amro from his home in Hebron for a week after he recorded a video clip of a soldier threatening protesters and telling a left-wing Israeli activist: “Ben Gvir is going to bring order to this place, you’ve had it.”
On the same day, another Israeli soldier pushed an activist to the ground and punched him in the face.
The two soldiers received short sentences in military detention with Mr Ben Gvir also defending the soldier who made taunting remarks.
Source : BBC