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IDF to Punish Soldiers Who Demanded 'Revenge' for Teens' Deaths

IDF vows it will severely punish soldiers who called for 'revenge', or took part in violent Jerusalem demonstration.
By Moshe Cohen
First Publish: 7/3/2014, 12:42 PM

Eyal Yirfah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel
Eyal Yirfah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel
Courtesy of the families

The IDF is planning to use a “strong hand” against soldiers it finds out have called for revenge in the wake of the murders of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel, and Gilad Sha'ar. The decision was made Wednesday, after reports emerged that an Arab teen had been killed and hundreds of people had marched Tuesday night throughout the streets of Jerusalem calling for “death to the Arabs.”

An IDF spokesperson condemned the calls, and said that the army would not tolerate advocating “harm to innocent people.” The spokesperson said that the army would open an investigation into posts made on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter which included photos of soldiers holding signs or chanting slogans demanding revenge.

In one photo posted on Facebook, a shirtless soldier with the Hebrew word for “revenge” drawn on his chest is seen holding a gun. His face is not seen, but on his chest is also scrawled the number “97,” a possible reference to the Kfir Brigade's 97th light infantry battalion, sources said.

Soldiers were also seen in dozens of videos posted on social media showing an angry protest in Jerusalem Tuesday night after the funeral of the teens. Police arrested dozens of marchers who faced off against them, trying to reach Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. By Thursday, sources said, all of the arrested had been released.

In a statement, the IDF said that “it is a shame that there are those who take advantage of the national mourning for these innocent victims for political purposes who seek to incite, and it is unacceptable that soldiers would be connected to this. Freedom of speech on social networks does not give soldiers permission to ignore orders and procedures on this matter.” The spokesperson added that commanders were being given orders to punish soldiers involved in espousing demands for revenge.

Numerous religious and political leaders have called for calm. Speaking Wednesday, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau called on Israelis to exercise restraint amid calls for revenge on Arabs. "The discourse about revenge is wrong morally, ethically and halakhically,” said Rabbi Lau. "We have to trust that the security forces will do their job properly and not think at all about taking revenge which can lead the entire region down a dangerous path. Our revenge will be in the punishment of the murderers and in continuing the wonderful way of uniting hearts and strengthening the Jewish faith,” said the Chief Rabbi.

Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir on Wednesday also urged calm amid calls by Israelis for revenge against Arabs over the murder of the three teenagers. "The evildoers who took the lives of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali must be caught and punished. Those who sent them must be persecuted but this should be done from the head,” he said. “Just as brutal murder is not a policy, so is revenge not a policy. The expressions of hate and violence must be uprooted, regardless of religion, race or political view. This erodes us and hurt us.”