The army failed to report an incident in which a settler took a gun from a soldier and fired at Palestinians in June, as well as an incident in which a masked soldier fired at Palestinians, despite having claimed the contrary.
A civilian was filmed on June 26 firing at Palestinians near the outpost of Havat Maon in the South Hebron Hills. According to an army investigation, the shooter was a settler who took the soldier’s gun without permission and gave it back to him after firing it. The army discovered his identity on the same day.
In response to an inquiry from Haaretz about proceedings against the shooter, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that the incident was reported by the army to the Israel Police.
However, the police say no complaint or report of the incident was received from the IDF or any other body. Afterwards, the IDF spokesman said that the army had been mistaken in its initial response to the inquiry, and that it did not report the incident, nor was a complaint filed against the settler.
"An IDF soldier picked up a settler in an army vehicle and asked him for directions. When they arrived at the site, stones were thrown at the vehicle. In response, the settler took the soldier’s gun and fired into the air. Due to the seriousness of the incident, the soldier was immediately summoned for questioning by the brigade commander and orders were clarified. To remove all doubt, the settler’s identity is known,” a military spokesman said.
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Contrary to the army’s version of the incident, Palestinian eyewitnesses said that they saw the soldier give his gun to the settler. The IDF said that the soldier was summoned for questioning.
In addition to this case, the IDF has also declined to disclose whether steps have been taken against a masked soldier who was filmed firing at Palestinians in May, and whether he is still serving in the army. A Palestinian was killed in that incident, and the Military Police are investigating whether he was struck by a bullet fired by the soldier.
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The army has refused to divulge the soldier's name, and no complaint has been lodged, nor have other steps been taken against him.
The incident involving the masked soldier occurred on May 14 near the Palestinian village of Urif. An armed, masked man wearing army uniform pants was filmed firing at Palestinians next to other IDF soldiers. The army said the shooter was a soldier who lives in the area, but was not part of the squad on duty at the site.
A Palestinian resident of the village, Nidal Safadi, was shot and killed during the incident. The victim’s brother told the human rights group B’Tselem that soldiers and settlers were both firing at Palestinians. The IDF refused to provide information about the soldier or the unit he serves in.
The IDF spokesman said that the Military Police had opened an investigation into Safadi’s death and the results will be submitted to the military advocate general upon completion. "To remove all doubt, the identity of the soldier is known,” said the spokesman.
A number of cases have been documented in recent months in which Palestinians were attacked by settlers in the presence of soldiers who did nothing to stop them. Information from the military advocate general reveals that the army did not take action against soldiers in such cases.
Incidents of soldiers standing by while settlers attack Palestinians have embarrassed the army, and Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said recently in private conversations that this is “a serious phenomenon that must not happen.”
During his speech at the change of command ceremony for Central Command, Kochavi said that the army would crack down on soldiers who do not follow instructions in the field. “We will back you up when you act according to orders, but we will not tolerate exceptions,” the chief of staff said, adding that soldiers must “combine carrying out their missions and defending our forces, while not harming the innocent.”
According to the military adjutant general, in 2020 there were three reports of soldiers standing idly by and not acting when they should have prevented injury to Palestinians, and only in one case did the Military Police launch an investigation.