Police Find No Evidence Backing Israeli Army Claims That Leftist Activists Attacked Soldiers

Despite an IDF probe alleging that in September ‘violence was employed against the army,’ police decided against opening an investigation into six activists arrested at the time in the West Bank, citing lack of evidence

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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An olive harvest volunteer being handcuffed by an Israeli soldier near Salfit in the West Bank, last month.
An olive harvest volunteer being handcuffed by an Israeli soldier near Salfit in the West Bank, last month.Credit: Matan Golan
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Police have decided against opening an investigation into the six left-wing activists who were arrested two months ago after they allegedly clashed with soldiers in the South Hebron Hills, citing insufficient evidence.

The decision came despite an Israel Defense Forces probe that found that the activists had attacked soldiers and blocked a road.

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The probe also showed Maj. Maor Moshe, a deputy battalion commander from the Combat Engineering Corps, had attacked a leftist activist and a Palestinian man, in addition to injuring activists after employing riot dispersal tactics.

The army penalized Moshe by barring him from promotion over the next three years. The IDF probe also concluded that “violence was employed against the army” by activists during the incident.

A video still showing deputy battalion commander Moshe Maor pushing a Palestinian in the South Hebron Hills, last month.Credit: Screenshot

The police's decision was relayed to Itay Mack, the lawyer representing the activists – who belong to the organization Combatants for Peace – after he approached Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev about the status of the investigation. He was told that the police concluded there was not enough evidence to open a formal investigation.

During the incident, soldiers detained the six activists, put them in a military vehicle and handcuffed them. Some activists were also blindfolded.

Yair Bunzel, an activist with Combatants for Peace, told Haaretz that while being held in the vehicle he heard an officer instruct soldiers, “Take them to the [police] station and tell them that they attacked us.”

The activists said they were kept in the vehicle for six hours, during which they were transported to the police station in Kiryat Arba and made to wait in the station parking lot.

Eventually, they were brought into the station and told that they could go but had to return the following Sunday. The activists did not return and instead sent a letter to the police demanding that the investigation be terminated.

The activists had come to South Hebron Hills to provide water tanks to one of the isolated Palestinian communities abutting the settler outpost of Avigail. The army doesn’t allow the Palestinians to take water from cisterns or bring in tanks.

On the day of the incident, soldiers blocked the road to prevent activists from delivering the tanks, and activists responded with chants against the occupation. Then, according to the activists, the soldiers began to shove them and threw stun and teargas grenades in their direction.

Maj. Moshe forced one of the activists, Tuli Flint, to the ground and put his knee on Flint’s neck. He also shoved other activists. During the clashes, a Palestinian protester was hit in the stomach with a teargas grenade, the finger of another activist was broken, and a woman was hurt when her blouse caught fire from a teargas grenade.

In another incident, Moshe was documented pushing a Palestinian while scores of settlers were attacking the residents of the South Hebron Hill village of al-Mufkara.

Although Moshe was denied promotion for the next three years, officers of his rank generally have to wait three years for promotion regardless.

Combatants for Peace said in response to the police decision: "The Public Security Ministry has made clear that the IDF’s investigation was false and that no evidence was found at the scene to back its claims. The decision to make political arrests and to issue false findings is what happens in dark and dangerous countries. We call on the public security and defense ministers to draw conclusions.”

The Israeli army said that its findings from its probe into the incident published last month "still stand," and warned that videos on social media only present "a partial picture" and may even be edited.

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