Givati soldiers who were recorded attacking left-wing activists in Hebron on Friday and were suspended claim that in the moments preceding the filmed confrontation the activists were asked to leave the scene several times.
According to IDF sources, the soldiers involved in the incident claimed that a bus of haredi tourists had asked to take pictures with the soldiers and that shortly thereafter, a bus of activists had begun to provoke and attack the soldiers.
The incident took place on the road that leads from Kiryat Arba to the Cave of the Patriarchs, in the Beit Hashalom area, a house that was purchased and occupied by Jews several years ago.
The IDF Chief of Staff, Major General Aviv Kochavi, strongly condemned any use of violence, physical or verbal, and stated that he views with severity any display of violence by IDF soldiers.
"These incidents included severe verbal and physical violence toward both Israelis and Palestinians," Kochavi said in an open letter. "The IDF does not operate with violence. IDF soldiers are permitted to use force in accordance with defined principles and rules, and they have the authorities and tools required to do so. That said, they are strictly prohibited from using force when unnecessary: when it is not necessary to carry out the mission, when it is not necessary for self defense, and certainly not because of a loss of temper or to take revenge. Any incident of this sort is severe, wrong, unethical and unlawful."
"Incidents such as these tarnish the name of the unit in which the soldier serves, the name of the IDF and the name of the State of Israel. I am aware of the complicated reality in which you operate and the challenges you are faced with. It is truly complex, but properly balancing the operation of force and the restraint of force is part of the professionalism and set of values expected of a soldier and a commander. The vast majority of IDF soldiers do not behave this way; on the contrary, abnormal behavior such as this requires denunciation and severe punishment."
Prime Minister Yair Lapid supported the Chief of Staff's statement, adding: "The IDF is a moral army that operates according to the law. This is the secret of our strength."
Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir said, "I know the people of the extreme left who come to Hebron, they abuse the soldiers, insult them, curse them, and many times attack them. I call on the police to check whether in this case the people of the extreme left did not provoke the soldiers and hurt them."
At the same time, MK Ben-Gvir added: "There is no room for harming extreme leftists based on their views, that's clear, but on the other hand, too many times leftists only film one part of the confrontation. I call on the police to exhaust the investigation and investigate, and as soon as it turns out that leftists have harmed and attacked soldiers, they should be arrested immediately."
Another MK from Ben-Gvir's party, Limor Son Har-Melech, commented: "I support the beloved Givati soldiers, who with devotion and love of Israel work day and night to protect the lives of the citizens of Israel. The one who is to blame in these cases is the one who put our soldiers for months in impossible situations, in the face of provocations by anarchist left-wing activists who come to disrupt the IDF's activities. Everyone would do better if they work to eliminate the anarchist left activists who are funded by European money and harm our soldiers, instead of condemning and abandoning the best of our sons."