Two Israeli soldiers who admitted having set fire to a Palestinian-owned lumber warehouse in the West Bank city of Nablus in September were sentenced on Thursday in a military court to two months in prison in a plea bargain. The soldiers, from the 932nd Battalion of the Nahal Infantry Brigade, were also ordered to pay 10,000 shekels ($2,600) in damages to the warehouse owner.
- Two Israeli soldiers torch Palestinian warehouse in Nablus
- Israeli soldiers photographed beating Palestinian in Hebron
- New terror wave begins, with relatively high casualty rate
The soldiers, whose names were not released for publication, expressed remorse for their actions, saying they were committed out of “boredom, as a joke, in a moment of stupidity.”
The soldiers were part of a force guarding Jewish worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. They were assigned to erect a roadblock after dark, and instructed to light a fire for illumination.
They told the court they decided to use their remaining fuel to burn a pile of wood nearby. After lighting the fire in the warehouse, they gazed at the flames briefly and left the scene without trying to extinguish the fire. They were filmed by a security camera as they set the storeroom on fire.
They did not report the incident after returning to their base.
The fire, which was put out by Palestinian firefighters, destroyed a palm tree, a security camera and seven stacks of lumber. The value of the burned wood was assessed at 56,000 shekels.
The verdict noted not only “the danger of the arson and the damage to property” but also the damage done by the incident to the army’s image and relations with local residents.
The soldiers are expected to be released in about 10 days’ time, with the days they have been in custody since their arrest in September counting as time served. As part of the plea bargain, they were convicted of exceeding authority to a degree endangering life rather than arson.
In addition to the custodial sentence and payment of compensation to the victim, they were sentenced to a month of community service, doing maintenance work on an army base, after their release from prison.
The lawyers said their clients were young soldiers who made a mistake and wanted to return to their units as soon as possible. They praised the court for its leniency.