IDF official says soldier who fought Palestinian family ‘acted correctly’
Palestinians fight to free a young boy from the grips of an Israeli soldier in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 28, 2015. (AFP/FIle)
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A senior IDF official on Tuesday praised a soldier who was filmed trying, but being physically prevented from, arresting a 12-year-old Palestinian boy for rock-throwing at a West Bank protest late last month, saying the soldier behaved admirably.
The soldier was prevented from carrying out the arrest by members of the boy’s family near the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh outside Ramallah. The ensuing scuffle was recorded in a video that then went viral online, drawing millions of views.
“There are no conditions under which a soldier should find himself alone in a situation like that facing a civilian population, but the tactical error was made by the commanders in the field — not the soldier who found himself there and was photographed,” the senior army official said in a briefing to reporters.
“The soldier handled himself correctly and with restraint when it came to the use of force, and should be commended for his proportional [response]” despite being grabbed, punched and even bitten as he attempted to take Mohammed into custody.
“He acted correctly when he did not open fire despite the aggression directed at him from the civilians. The presence of cameras in the field is a complex challenge, but from our perspective the order is and remains, ‘Use force only when endangered’ — whether there are cameras present or not.”
The comments were delivered off the record to Israeli journalists Tuesday as the IDF continues its investigation of the incident.
The family of the boy, Mohammed Tamimi, has a long history of altercations with IDF soldiers — and of producing viral videos from the encounters. Members of the family are involved in frequent demonstrations in the area against construction in the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish, and Mohammed’s sister A’hd was given an award by Turkey for her harassment of an Israeli soldier in a viral video in 2012.
“This is not the first time that the Tamimi family has clashed with IDF soldiers,” an army official said in the days that followed the incident, adding that the family often provoked soldiers violently during regular Friday demonstrations in Nabi Saleh.
In the latest footage, the soldier appears to forcefully restrain Mohammed Tamimi, whose arm is in a cast. On several occasions, he grabs the child around the neck and presses his head against a boulder to keep him still.
A group of women and children, including A’hd and and her mother, begin fighting with the soldier, punching him repeatedly while he holds down the boy. At one point, A’hd bites his hand.
Footage of previous incidents shows A’hd screaming and cursing at IDF soldiers on at least two separate occasions.
As a 13-year-old, A’hd gained fame among Palestinian activists for a November 2012 incident in which she led a group of children, including her brother Mohammed, in arguing with Israeli soldiers. In a video of the incident she can be seen raising her balled fist at a soldier.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised her and gave her a “Courage Award” in Istanbul. A’hd encouraged Erdogan to support boycotts of Israel.