A video showing Israel Defence Forces soldiers laughing as they beat a Palestinian father and son while holding them in custody has been released by an Israeli military court. The Jaffa Military Court – which last week convicted three soldiers of aggravated assault and aggravated battery – yesterday cleared the video for publication, lifting a gag order imposed by the IDF, the Times of Israel has reported.
Though the faces of both the soldiers and their victims have been pixelated to hide their identity, the soldiers can be seen hitting the two Palestinians on the head in the back of an army truck. The two Palestinians can be seen lying on the vehicle’s floor with their eyes covered, while the soldiers laugh and joke for the camera. “It’s your party, say hello,” the soldiers tell the father and son, while forcing them to say hello to the camera. The Palestinians cry out in pain as they are hit repeatedly.
The video served as the key piece of evidence in the soldiers’ trial, which came to a close on Sunday. Three of the soldiers investigated for the incident were handed 190-day jail terms and demoted to the rank of private after they “expressed remorse” for their actions and reached a plea bargain. The soldiers are, however, expected to be treated leniently and will be allowed to go home for the Jewish Passover holiday in April as well as have three months’ probation.
The convicted soldiers were arrested in January after it emerged that 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 during a week of heightened tension and Israeli crackdowns across the occupied West Bank.
The soldiers were suspected of beating the father and son in revenge for December’s attack, as both sets of soldiers belong to the same unit – the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade — which is stationed in the 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, with the teen recalling: “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.”
A subsequent report by Haaretz added that, “One detainee’s injuries were so severe that investigators could not question him immediately following the incident.” The Israeli daily did not specify whether this referred to the father or the son.
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, a soldier from the same battalion was sentenced to 21 days in military prison for celebrating at a wedding the murder of 18-month-old Palestinian Ali Dawabsheh. In a video of the incident, 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 his parents, leaving his five-year-old brother Ahmed orphaned.