Soldier held for Hebron shooting to be questioned amid major political uproar

PM orders Ya’alon to halt return of terrorists’ bodies.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 29, 2016 02:51
3 minute read.
Terror Israel

IDF soldier who killed neutralized Palestinian terrorist in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The IDF soldier who shot a neutralized Palestinian in the head Thursday will be questioned by a military court at Ground Forces Command near Kiryat Malachi on Tuesday amid a political debate over how the IDF and politicians have handled the incident.

The questioning was originally set for a the Jaffa Military Court, but the location was changed, because hundreds of protesters were expected to demand that the soldier be released.

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Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had called on Israelis to come to the court to support the soldier.

“It could be that the soldier was right and it could be that he was wrong, but a live soldier who was mistaken is better than a soldier who hesitated and was murdered by a terrorist,” Liberman told his faction.

Liberman complained that the incident “revealed how pathetic the government is,” led by “a prime minister who changes his mind every day” and two security cabinet ministers – Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Education Minister Gilad Erdan – “who constantly argue publicly.”

Netanyahu told his Likud faction that as the father of a soldier, he was touched by statements made by the father of the Hebron soldier, who pleaded for mercy for his son. But he said he trusts the IDF investigation.

“IDF soldiers, our children, are facing murderous terror attacks from terrorists who try to kill them,” Netanyahu said. “They must make quick decisions under pressure in the field amid uncertainty.

I believe the probe will take that into account and will be professional and fair to the soldier.”

Ya’alon and Bennett, who argued during the cabinet meeting and on social media Sunday, took their dispute to the Knesset plenum Monday.

In his speech, Ya’alon vigorously denied Bennett’s charges that he had condemned the soldier based on a video clip taken by the controversial human rights organization B’Tselem before the IDF had properly investigated the incident.

“Our initial investigation was already done before the video was published, and the bottom line was this was an incident of a soldier who had transgressed, and not a hero,” Ya’alon said. “Therefore all the criticism and release of false, manipulative information and attacks on the chief of staff were unwarranted. What do you want: a beastly IDF that loses its ethical spine?” Ya’alon said he was proud that the IDF officers had taken immediate action against the soldier. He said Bennett should have checked his facts before turning to the press.

Bennett said he would not respond to what he termed personal attacks by Ya’alon against him.

“You can attack me, and I will be alright, but don’t attack our soldiers,” Bennett said. “The story is not Ya’alon, or Bennett, but the soldiers. A soldier was condemned because of one video by B’Tselem, led away in handcuffs and charged with murder. Have we lost our minds?” Bennett said it was important for IDF soldiers guarding Israel during Monday’s rain to know that politicians were guarding them.

Likud MK Nava Boker called for a pardon for the soldier if he is convicted.

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas responded to the incident for the first time Monday, telling a Channel 10 reporter in Ramallah that the soldier must face an independent, international trial.

Separately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to stop transferring the bodies of Palestinian terrorists to their families. Palestinians hold that these assailants are martyrs and have in the past held mass funerals for them in which their bodies are paraded on gurneys through their home villages or cities.

Netanyahu believes that these funerals fuel additional violence, whereas as Ya’alon is of the opinion that it is the failure to return the bodies that would lead to further attacks.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has already held onto the bodies of Israelis Arabs residents of Jerusalem who have carried out such attacks and has returned them only under certain conditions, including holding only small funerals.

Netanyahu’s order extends that policy to the West Bank.

Since mid-September, more than 120 Palestinians have been killed executing attacks against Israelis, in a wave of violence that has claimed the lives of 34 victims including two Americans.

Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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