Israeli Army Keeps Dozens of AWOL Soldiers in Cold Prison Yard Overnight

Arrested soldiers, forced to wait outside several hours to be processed, complained of being very cold because they received no sleeping bags.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Illustrative photo shows handcuffed, detained soldiers.
Illustrative photo shows handcuffed, detained soldiers. Credit: Tal Cohen
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israeli military conducted an operation to round up absent-without-leave soldiers without providing sufficient housing, leaving the soldiers overnight in a prison yard while they waited to be processed without having proper sleeping conditions.

The army arrested hundreds of draft dodgers and deserters. While military prisons and courts were warned to prepare to receive many soldiers, Prison 4 in Tzrifin did not have enough space for all who arrived. Some of the soldiers were forced to wait in a courtyard and fell asleep on the pavement. Dozens of soldiers complained that they suffered from intense cold and did not receive sleeping bags.

An Israel Defense Forces source said the arrested soldiers received jackets and hot drinks to pass the night, but did not receive an order “to sleep on the ground.” Still, some of the soldiers reportedly waited until 6 A.M. before they were brought before a military judge.

In wake of the soldiers’ complaints, the military defense attorney’s office, which represents some of the soldiers, sent a demand to the Prison 4 commander to investigate the incident.

The army rounded up 381 deserters and draft dodgers in five operations over the past year, according to Military Police data. There were 1,979 soldiers who went AWOL and 2,090 draft dodgers in 2015.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office acknowledged the operation and commented that waiting time to be processed “was longer than usual” due to the concentration of soldiers, who received “food, hot drinks and winter clothes.” It noted that soldiers received a proper place to sleep after being processed. “Consequently, lessons were learned and the arrival of soldiers to prison lasted the entire day,” it added.

The military defense attorney’s office responded that the IDF Spokesman’s Office comment “did not match the details sent us by soldiers we represent. The soldiers assert they were supplied only a few jackets and hot drinks.”

The defender’s office noted that the operation was planned in advance, “and there was sufficient time to prepare for it,” adding that it expected “military enforcement figures to prepare accordingly and not reach a situation in which the soldiers’ basic rights and right to respect are violated.”