Military Closes Case Against Soldiers Accused of Helping Palestinians Cross Into Israel

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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People walk through a hole in a fence that is part of the West Bank separation barrier, August 2020.
People walk through a hole in a fence that is part of the West Bank separation barrier, August 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The military prosecution closed an investigation of three Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were arrested on suspicion they helped Palestinians cross the separation barrier without permits to be in Israel. A judge ruled that the soldiers had been questioned because of “their presumed political opinion.”

The three had been questioned by the Military Police on suspicion of undermining state security, fraud and breach of trust.

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The soldiers and their attorneys argued that the investigation was an act of political harassment by their deputy company commander. The military judge, Lt. Col. Ronen Schorr, had said at the September hearing on extending their detention that his examination of the evidence showed the claim they had assisted the Palestinians was not based on facts, but on assumptions “based, unfortunately, also on the presumed political opinion of the soldiers.”

The judge also noted the many breaches along the fence and said, “There emerges a complex picture with regard to the ability of the IDF to control the sector in which the suspects were serving.”

The soldiers argued that the deputy company commander, who has already been discharged from the military, also harassed them using internet memes. The military prosecution said the pictures disseminated by the commander “do not meet the state’s standards expected from an officer.” The meme the officer prepared and posted included one that read, “Screw August,” and “August 17 thinks they’re going to be released easily,” as part of a homophobic meme. The prosecution said the complaint about the posting of the memes had been transferred “for examination at the command level.”

The soldiers also filed a complaint about the same deputy commander regarding violence he had used against a Palestinian; the prosecution said that this issue was still being examined. In a letter that the soldiers’ attorneys sent Sunday to the Southern District and Ground Forces prosecution, they wrote that the prosecution’s response could give the impression that “the vague expression ‘examination’ is only meant to ‘dissolve’ this serious complaint as well.”

The three Nahal Brigade soldiers were guarding the separation barrier in an area where the fence is full of holes. They were arrested a day before they were to begin their pre-discharge leave, as first reported by journalist Ben Caspit on Radio 103FM. As part of the investigation a video was shown that one of the soldiers had posted, showing Palestinians crossing the barrier while he was in his patrol vehicle. In another video that was screened, one of the soldiers is seen speaking to the Palestinians, and afterward the Palestinians are seen crossing into the “dead zone” from the other side of the barrier.

Nevertheless, the investigator in the case noted that since the crossing itself is not seen in the video, it’s possible that these weren’t the same Palestinians. One of the soldiers was also questioned about his correspondence and relationship with a Palestinian, but the judge ruled, “There is no real evidence that the conversations between the two were connected to the suspect’s military mission or that he had conveyed, even innocently, any security information to the unidentified Palestinian.”

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