Soldier Suspended for Harassing Palestinians at Checkpoint

An Israel Defense Forces soldier was suspended from military service last Wednesday after Haaretz questioned the IDF Spokesman about the soldier's behavior at the Taysir roadblock. A military official informed Haaretz of the decision.

Haaretz learned of two cases over the past two weeks when soldiers urinated near women waiting at the northern Jordan Valley checkpoint. At least one involved this soldier. Palestinians told Haaretz and MachsomWatch monitors that the soldier's first name is Koby.

The soldier hit civilians on several occasions, intentionally delayed cars for up to two hours and even turned some away, forcing them to make a large detour to another checkpoint. Witnesses said the soldier told Palestinians from the Jordan Valley (who, apart from laborers employed in the area's Jewish communities, are nearly the only people permitted to pass through the checkpoint) that they were prohibited from spending the night outside their area of residence, as listed on their identity cards. One one occasion, he used this pretext to prevent an elderly resident from traveling to the hospital.

Another resident told Haaretz that last Tuesday evening, Koby took the identity cards of some of the drivers waiting at the roadblock and gave them to a police officer sitting in his Jeep nearby. Koby told the officer that none of the drivers was wearing a seatbelt, after which the officer - who the witnesses say never left his vehicle - wrote tickets for at least five of them. The witness said he told Koby after receiving a ticket, "You know full well that we are wearing our seatbelts." The soldier responded by saying he had arranged for each of them "to support the State of Israel with NIS 100," the amount of the fine.

In addition to suspending the soldier, the soldier's company commander was reprimanded by his brigade commander, Yigal Slovik. The military officials told Haaretz that Slovik made it clear to the company commander and the battalion commander that the behavior described by Haaretz was taken "very seriously, and harms the IDF's notion of security, and not only the Palestinians'."

The soldier will be suspended until the battalion and brigade commanders complete their investigation. Slovik requested that a Civil Administration representative be present at Taysir until the soldiers there fully understand their orders. In addition, Slovik will work to cancel the tickets issued at the checkpoint, the IDF source said.

The IDF Spokesman said that soldiers told valley residents that they could not stay away from home overnight because they had not understood their directives. Last week, the Spokesman said delays at the checkpoint were due to renovations. On Wednesday, residents reported waiting times of 10 minutes or less.

Residents have reported various cases of harassment by soldiers at Taysir over the past two years. These mostly involve long delays, blocked passage based on fictitious prohibitions, and the unloading of agricultural produce for no reason.