Three Israeli soldiers have been sentenced for brutally beating a Palestinian father and son who were being held in custody.
The Jaffa Military Court yesterday charged the three soldiers – who have not been named – with aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Another soldier has also been charged following the incident, as well as the soldier's commander who is accused of not preventing the violence.
However, despite the fact that the soldiers were found guilty, they are expected to reach a plea bargain under which they will be sentenced to only 190 days in jail. The court will decide on Sunday whether the plea bargain is to be accepted, Ynet reported.
The soldiers were arrested in January after it emerged they had beaten two Palestinians detained near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The pair – who it later emerged were a 50-year-old father and his 15-year-old son – were arrested during a manhunt for the alleged perpetrator of an attack on Israeli soldiers near the illegal outpost of Givat Assaf in December, which came amid a week of heightened violence and Israeli crackdowns across the occupied West Bank.
The soldiers were suspected of beating the father and son as revenge for December's attack, since both sets of soldiers belong to the same unit – the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, which is stationed in northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Details of the brutal beating emerged during February's court proceedings, with the 15-year-old boy telling the court: "I was lying on my back, with hands cuffed behind my back and a blindfold over my eyes. I was kicked by four soldiers – who used their hands, feet and the barrels of their M16 rifles – in the face, chest, abdomen, legs, and testicles […] I couldn't open my left eye and my mouth was filled with blood."
The Israeli soldiers also forced the boy to watch his father being beaten to the point of losing consciousness.
I saw them breaking my father's ribs by beating him in the chest with gun barrels. My hands were tied behind my back, I could not do anything
the teen recalled.
The Netzah Yehuda Battalion has a history of right-wing violence against Palestinians. In 2016, a Netzah Yehuda soldier was sentenced to nine months in prison for torturing a Palestinian suspect with electric shocks, during which he blindfolded, handcuffed and attached electrodes to his victim.
In 2015, an Israeli soldier from the same battalion was sentenced to 21 days in military prison for celebrating the murder of 18-month-old Palestinian Ali Dawabsheh at a wedding. In a video, wedding guests could be seen dancing with guns and stabbing a photo of Ali. The soldier was thought to have links to Amiram Ben-Uliel, the extremist Israeli settler believed to have carried out the firebomb attack that killed Ali and left his five-year-old brother Ahmed orphaned.
The battalion, including the three soldiers sentenced yesterday, have also drawn support from Elor Azaria, who gained infamy for shooting an unarmed Palestinian to death in the West Bank city of Hebron in 2016. Azaria in February expressed his support for the soldiers, telling a crowd of right-wing activists who had gathered outside the Jaffa court that the soldiers "should be strong, go with that they hold to be true, all of Israel is behind them". Azaria added: "They shouldn't be afraid. Only they know what happened there. No one can judge them. No one was in their shoes."
Azaria was caught on video shooting 21-year-old Palestinian Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif in the head while he lay wounded on the ground in Hebron. The footage was released by Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem and caused international uproar, leading an investigation to be opened against him. Like the three Netzah Yehuda soldiers, Azaria was treated leniently for his crime, being convicted of manslaughter and handed an 18-month prison sentence. In September 2017, Israel's military chief of staff cut Azaria's jail term by four months, while prominent establishment figures called for him to be pardoned. He was released in May 2018, having served just nine months of his sentence.