The IDF Central District Court has recommended that the prosecution and defense reach a plea deal in the case against five IDF soldiers who allegedly severely beat two Palestinian detainees.While suggestions to reach a deal through arbitration – like the one from the court on Monday – are taken seriously, the case was high profile enough that the IDF is likely to demand some amount of jail time as part of the deal as well.It is unclear if the defense will agree to that in light of their initial claims that the indictment should never have been filed.It was also unclear whether the five soldiers would be treated the same or whether the IDF prosecution would demand more serious punishments for two of the soldiers indicted for obstruction of justice after they allegedly tried to coordinate presenting a similar false narrative of the incident.The court extended the detention of the five soldiers at least for an additional two weeks during the talks.
The five soldiers, who serve in the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion, were arrested on January 10 following the January 8 incident and the prosecution has requested an extension of the arrest until the end of the trial.The five were arrested on suspicion of beating the two detainees with their fists and hard objects while they were handcuffed and blindfolded, leaving the Palestinians severely injured as a result of the beating.The two Palestinians, a father and a son, were detained on suspicion of helping Asam Barghouti evade authorities. Barghouti was the terrorist responsible for the Givat Assaf West Bank outpost attack in which two IDF soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion were killed and another soldier and female civilian were wounded. The father and son are still in custody but have not yet been charged.According to the indictment, the defendants filmed themselves while they beat the Palestinians all over, including intimate parts of the body.The accused are said to have removed the son’s blindfold and forced him to watch as his father was beaten.During the footage, one can hear cries of joy from the soldiers as the Palestinians are beaten and calling for help.The IDF public defender challenged the allegations, saying that at least portions of the beatings of the Palestinians might have been carried out by other soldiers.They said that a third detained Palestinian had also been beaten even though he was not in the car with the five defendants. They added that the IDF failed to give the defendants proper psychological counseling for a period of three weeks leading to the incident after two of their fellow soldiers had been killed. In addition, they argued that the indictment and the case file was missing dozens of pieces of evidence.Both Palestinians were hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem due to the beatings.Regarding the obstruction of justice charges, the indictment said that the IDF has evidence of WhatsApp messages between defendants 3 and 4 about trying to coordinate their narratives.In addition to the five soldiers, their commanding officer, who holds the rank of lieutenant, was also arrested though he is now in open detention – meaning not behind bars, but unable to leave his army base.The military has been investigating whether the soldiers had been motivated by revenge for their comrades killed in the deadly attack.MK Bezalel Smotrich has criticized the indictment saying that even if the soldiers made mistakes, the case should be handled through disciplinary proceedings and not criminal ones.He argued that when the soldiers allegedly beat the Palestinians, they were arresting terrorists and was after the soldiers had seen the bodies of their murdered friends.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.