Israeli Soldiers Suspected of Letting West Bank Teens Play With Their Weapons

Israeli army launches probe into incident after pre-military academy posted Facebook pictures which showed students holding rifles

The outpost at the abandoned Camp Gadi army base in the Jordan Valley.
Gil Eliahu

The Israeli military police have launched a probe into suspicions that several soldiers permitted teenage students at a pre-military academy in an unauthorized West Bank outpost to play with their rifles.

A source involved in the probe said it was opened a few weeks ago after photos were posted on the academy’s Facebook page in which soldiers were seen along with students who were holding the soldiers’ rifles.

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The investigation has not uncovered evidence that the teens fired the weapons, which they apparently only held and played with. The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Unit confirmed the existence of the investigation and added that when it is concluded, its findings will be passed on to the military advocate general’s office.

The incident is alleged to have taken place at the Liel pre-military academy, which opened recently in the Jordan Valley. The academy was established at an abandoned military base, Camp Gadi, without authorization.

In a brief filed with the High Court of Justice late last year, the state said it believed 12 families were living in six buildings on the abandoned base, which is adjacent to Route 90.

At around the same time, Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank ordered the residents at the base to halt work they were carrying out to renovate buildings and install infrastructure at the site.

In 2017, left-wing activists came across social media posts in which settlers discussed plans to create the outpost. The activists sought an order from the High Court of Justice requiring the army to prevent renovation work at the former base, although the petitioners acknowledged the unusual nature of their request, since the outpost did not yet exist at the time.

The court declined to issue an injunction in the case, and after the Jordan Valley Regional Council informed the court that it had no intention to build an authorized outpost at the base, the petition was withdrawn. Subsequently, however, the state informed the court that squatters had entered the site.

The base was built on state land near the Jordan Valley settlement of Masua, the government told the court, but explained that there was no legal basis for building a settlement at the base because the site lacked a valid master plan.

This isn’t the first time settlers have established an outpost on an abandoned military base. The Malachei Hashalom outpost, which is now several years old, was built at the abandoned Mevo Shiloh base in the northern West Bank. The residents of that outpost left the site two years ago following an agreement with the Civil Administration, but returned soon afterwards and are now farming and raising sheep there.