Israel jails soldier who assaulted Palestinian during US media interview

JERUSALEM (Reuters): Israel’s military on Monday jailed for 10 days a soldier who assaulted a Palestinian activist as he was speaking to a US journalist, but gave an account of the incident that was disputed by the interviewer.

The incident in Hebron also set off an internal Israeli flap, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir — one of several hundred hard-line Jewish settlers living in the flashpoint city in the occupied West Bank — voicing full support for the soldier.

In a video posted on Twitter by Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker magazine, the soldier grabs Issa Amro by his jacket and neck and throws him to the ground. He then lands a kick to Amro’s backside before being pulled away by another soldier.

“I never had a source assaulted in front of me until today when an Israeli soldier who stopped my interview did this,” Wright tweeted.

The military said the event began when the soldier, guarding a military post, asked the Palestinian who approached the post to step away.

“In response, the Palestinian began recording and cursing the soldier. A verbal confrontation followed, which soon became a physical confrontation, during which the soldier hit the Palestinian,” it said in a statement.

“As the video shows, the soldier did not act as expected and did not follow the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) code of conduct.”

However, in a Twitter response, Wright said: “The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) misrepresented what led to this. The soldier initiated the encounter, Amro did not curse him only asked to call his commander. Nothing to justify the violent assault that followed.”

The military declined to comment further.

Ben-Gvir called the soldier’s sentence — which included a suspension from active combat duties — a “disgrace” and described Amro as an anarchist.

“I fully support the soldier, who did not remain silent. Soldiers deserve to be backed up, not jailed,” Ben-Gvir tweeted.

Amro, described by Wright as a peace activist, accused the minister of trying to get him killed.

“The soldiers are listening to @itamarbengvir not to their military occupation commanders,” Amro tweeted.