Jerusalem — A senior Israeli military officer caught on tape hitting an activist in the face with the butt of his rifle has been suspended pending the results of an investigation.
The International Solidarity Movement posted on YouTube a video of the incident, which took place Saturday during a protest bike ride in the Jordan Valley.
Approximately 200 activists, including Palestinians from the West Bank and foreign activists, rode their bikes along Route 90, the Jordan Valley’s main north-south route, to protest what the ISM calls on its website “regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers.”
Israel Defense Forces soldiers halted the activists, who were blocking the main thoroughfare to traffic and began taking away their bicycles. The video shows Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner hitting an activist in the face with his M-16 rifle. Four activists were wounded in the incident, according to Haaretz.
Central Command Chief Ma.-Gen. Nitzan Alon late on Sunday ordered an immediate investigation into the incident. In addition, Military Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avi Mandelblit ordered a criminal investigation against Eisner.
“This event does not reflect the IDF’s values and will be thoroughly investigated and handled with the necessary severity,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in a statement.
Eisner reportedly said he regrets the incident, but said the video represents one minute out of a two-hour event in which the protesters attacked the soldiers, breaking one of Eisner’s fingers and injured his wrist. He is seen later in the video with his wrist and finger in a white bandage.
According to Ynet, Eisner said he did not use a water cannon that he had at the scene in order to disperse the protesters because there was an ongoing dialogue and he wanted to end the event peacefully.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, saying: “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel.”