Senior IDF Officer: Nabi Saleh Incident Was a Mistake

Central Command officer faults decision to allow soldier to act alone during the protest 10 days ago, but praises soldier's restraint.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Palestinian women trying to free Mohammed Tamimi, during the protest in Nabi Saleh on August 28, 2015.Credit: AFP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

A senior Israel Defense Forces source says a tactical error occurred in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on August 28, when Palestinian women succeeded to prevent a soldier from arresting a 12-year-old boy who was throwing stones, and grabbed the youth in a headlock.

Regarding the uproar sparked by the incident  – which occurred during a weekly protest at the site, and involved members of the elite Egoz unit – the officer told reporters Tuesday that, “Nowhere should a soldier act on his own, that’s a mistake of his commanders. The military action taken was faulty. When they decided they wanted to apprehend [the youth], they should have sent in an additional soldier. That would have changed the entire incident.”

The officer, who serves in the IDF Central Command, added, "One must not stake the national honor on one incident.”

As to the individual soldier involved, he said, “It would have been legitimate for him to fire if he had felt that his life was in danger, and he preferred not to do so. He deserves praise for that.”

Also in his conversation with reporters, the Central Command officer was also asked to comment on the torching of the house in the village of Duma in July, which killed three members of the Dawabsheh family. The officer told reporters he was not at liberty to discuss the details of the army investigation, but noted, “We know unequivocally that it’s a terror incident. We shouldn’t fool ourselves.”

According to the IDF version of the incident in Nabi Saleh, a stone-thrower was identified during the demonstration there, and a soldier was sent to arrest him; the members of the unit didn’t realize the individual, Mohammed Tamimi, was a minor. When the soldier grabbed Tamimi with the intention of arresting him – several women gathered around and kept him from doing so. The officer in charge saw the scuffle and decided to release the minor.

Activists who were at the demonstration said that the soldier used violence against the boy, whose hand is now in a cast. According to Jonathan Pollak, a Haaretz employee who was also present, the boy did not throw stones, and the soldiers, who were gathered in an abandoned building before emerging to arrest him, could have seen that he was a minor.

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