IDF soldiers in Hebron
IDF soldiers in HebronWisam Hashlamoun/Flash90

The command inquiry conducted by the Commanding Officer of the Central Command, MG Yehuda Fuchs, following the incident that occurred this weekend between IDF soldiers and civilians in Hebron, concluded on Monday.

The inquiry found that the battalion has been carrying out operational activities in the Judea Brigade in recent months in a professional, operational, and successful manner. Prior to the beginning of the operational activity, mental and operational preparation was conducted, in which all the procedures were conveyed in an orderly manner and simulations were carried out. In addition, focused preparations were conducted for the commanders in the battalion, starting at the level of platoon commanders. It was also noted that discussions led by the company commanders about values and briefings for complex scenarios were conducted by the Commanding Officer of the battalion.

Recently, there has been an increase in confrontations in the Hebron area. Among them, last week, the “Shabbat Chayei Sarah” event took place, in which irregular violent riots were instigated in the area. On Friday, November 25, 2022, IDF soldiers were provoked by civilians. One of the civilians, who did not comply with a soldier’s instructions, was detained by the soldier. The soldier knocked the civilian to the ground and struck him on the face, and another soldier expressed himself in a manner inappropriate for an IDF soldier.

The inquiry points to a number of errors. The first of which is that the soldiers acted out of poor judgment and against what is expected of them, using unnecessary physical and verbal violence. Additionally, the soldier's decision to detain the civilian without his commander’s approval was an error. Moreover, a dedicated task force should be present in such situations in order to handle them appropriately, such as the Israel Police or the Israel Border Police. Such a force was not present in this incident. According to the findings of the inquiry, the violent behavior toward the civilian was unacceptable. Furthermore, the soldier is not permitted to express himself in an inappropriate manner while expressing a political affiliation.

Following the inquiry, the Commanding Officer of the Judea Brigade instructed to improve the preparation of soldiers before carrying out missions, placing particular emphasis on the moral readiness required to deal with a variety of scenarios. The preparation will be thorough and based on similar incidents and examples from the past. The Commander also ordered that Israel Police and Israel Border Police forces be on alert in areas where there is a high potential for altercations.

In light of recent events, the Commanding Officer of the Central Command has ordered the staff work to look into, improve, and expand the "toolbox" of the soldiers and commanders for similar situations.

The soldier who expressed himself in an inappropriate manner was suspended from all operational activity until the conclusion of the inquiry. After confessing to his actions, the soldier was convicted as part of the disciplinary proceedings and sentenced to ten days in military prison. On Tuesday, the soldier filed an appeal against the result of the proceedings. Simultaneously, following the detection of a flaw in the disciplinary proceedings, it was decided to order the soldier’s arraignment once more before the Commanding Officer of the Givati Brigade, who convicted the soldier and sentenced him to ten days of confinement in military prison. During his disciplinary trial, the soldier admitted his actions, expressed remorse, and stated that he understood the gravity of the actions and accepted responsibility for committing the crime. The Commanding Officer of the Brigade informed the soldier that he could request a reduction in punishment and that all factors would be taken into account as is customary.

The Commanding Officer of the Southern Command, Major-General Eliezer Toledano, spoke with the Commanding Officer of the Battalion and expressed his support for him and the entire battalion. Major-General Toledano praised the soldiers for their acclaimed and dedicated operational work, which is carried out day and night throughout the year. He added that tainting the name of the Commanding Officer of the Tzabar Battalion, a moral officer and an excellent commander, is unacceptable.

Following the violent incident, a joint inquiry by the Military Police and the Israel Police was launched. The inquiry’s findings regarding the soldier will be transferred to the Military Advocate General’s Corps. The soldier who was recorded hitting a civilian was suspended from all operational activities until the end of the inquiry, at which point the continuation of his case will be reviewed.

Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Aviv Kohavi, said, “The values of the IDF and the orders of its commanders are the only factors that dictate the unit’s missions, its methods of operation, the behavior of its soldiers, and its character. The responsibility of maintaining the professional and ethical level of the unit lies exclusively with the commanders of the IDF. IDF soldiers and the soldiers of the Tzabar Battalion conduct their activities under complex circumstances in a manner worthy of appreciation. The incident in question is abnormal and is being resolved by the commanders, and I fully support and trust the Commanding Officer of the Battalion.”

Commanding Officer of the Central Command, Major-General Yehuda Fuchs, said, “The vast majority of soldiers act as expected in hundreds of similar encounters during activity. I expect my soldiers to behave properly despite pressure and provocations. Unnecessary physical or verbal violence is not our way. Our approach is to defend with professionalism and composure, enabling normal routines of life and meeting our tasks in a worthy and professional manner. The behavior of the soldiers is an abnormal and serious incident. A soldier must not act or express himself in a way that is inconsistent with the values of the IDF. I back the soldiers of the IDF in any use of force necessary to neutralize a threat, but we will not tolerate instances in which soldiers overstep boundaries and abuse their position of authority.”

Commanding Officer of the Givati Brigade, Colonel Eliad Moati, said, “The Tzabar Battalion has been conducting high-quality and professional work in Hebron for the past five months, following a prolonged period of defending the Judea and Samaria security barrier. We will take clear measures regarding those who overstep and take advantage of their authority and power without justification, as well as against anyone who does not act with the required professionalism. This will be done along with close training and supervision of all of the soldiers. I have complete faith in the Commanding Officer of the Battalion, the excellent chain of command, and our soldiers, and I am convinced that we will successfully meet our goals.”

Commanding Officer of the Judea Brigade, Colonel Ishay Rosalio, added, “The brigade bears the great responsibility of familiarizing themselves with and understanding the operational sector, as well as ‘supporting’ the battalion and making it succeed even in the most sensitive of areas. I am well aware of the challenges that exist in the Hebron region. By virtue of our responsibility as commanders, we are obliged to provide our soldiers with the broadest professional and moral ‘toolbox’ in order to cope with such situations and to better prepare them to deal with similar ones in the future.”