The Soldier

A few days ago there was an incident in the town of  Hebron. Two young Palestinian men decided to stab some Israeli soldiers on patrol in Hebron. They wounded an Israeli soldier, and the squad of soldiers he was with neutralized the two Palestinian men. One was shot dead.

The other lay wounded in the street where the attack had taken place. The squad summoned ambulances and because the way communication on the airwaves takes place, very quickly security forces and other Israelis arrived at the scene.

A Palestinian stringer (working for an organization called B’tselem) was also on the scene, albeit behind some fences, walls and buildings. This stringer managed to shoot footage of what was about to occur, and what has been reported during these past few days.

The facts are, (and I have watched this footage many times, stopping it to get a better look) according to what I saw, as follows: An Israeli soldier put a bullet into the chamber of his rifle, aimed and shot at the head of the Palestinian lying on the ground in the street. The audio was not clear enough for me to hear what was said. The soldier then appeared to shake the hand of a man in plain clothes. Before and after the shooting soldiers and Israeli civilians were walking in this street, near the bodies of both the dead Palestinian man and the other, about to be shot in the head Palestinian man.

These are facts, clearly visible from the footage.

At first there were reports that the Israeli soldier had indicated that the Palestinian man still alive had an explosive vest and a detonator, and that turned out to be not true later on. Both the platoon commander and the company commander had verified that both Palestinian men had no explosives on them. Those verifications allowed Israeli soldiers and civilians to be in very close proximity to these two “neutralized” Palestinian men. Later reports indicated that the Israeli soldier had said “The stabber deserved to die. He stabbed my friend.” Again, this is according to reports.

This Israeli soldier is now in custody awaiting a trial. There are protests supporting the Israeli soldier, demanding his release.

There are also reports from Israel that the charges against this Israeli soldier will likely be manslaughter charges rather than murder.

I have no idea in what army you served, but I served in the Israeli Defense Forces, and because of my service, both on the field of battle and on patrols in the Gaza Strip and Hebron, I will allow myself to state the following: The Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, the Minister of Defense Mr. Ya’alon and the Chief of Staff Major General Eizenkot have stated the obvious. This is not how Israeli soldiers behave. There are rules of engagement. Further, there is an ongoing investigation into this shooting. Next, as much as every soldier in Israel is a daughter, a son, a sister a brother to us all, it does not mean that we don’t hold our soldiers accountable.

I don’t want to say more than I have because of the ongoing investigation. Whatever the outcome of this investigation might be, it is always wiser to let cooler heads prevail.

About the Author
Born in Israel, Yuval emigrated as a baby to Austria and then Canada. He returned to live in Israel in '71 until '91. His military service was in Golani (including Yom Kippur War). He resides in New Jersey.
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