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IDF indicts five soldiers from ultra-Orthodox unit for beating Palestinian detainees

FILE--Israeli soldiers guard two blindfolded Palestinian detainees who were caught unarmed trying to climb the fence from Gaza, at a base on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Monday, Dec. 22, 2008.
AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

The Israeli military’s prosecution filed indictment charges on Thursday against five soldiers from an ultra-Orthodox battalion for beating a Palestinian father and son they held as detainees.

Arrested ten days ago, the soldiers --- from the IDF’s religious unit ‘Netzah Yehuda’ which operates mainly in the West Bank -- are accused of beating the Palestinians as revenge for the death of two fellow battalion members who were killed in the December Givat Assaf shooting incident.

The group of soldiers including a company commander and a squad commander, will likely be charged with serious crimes that could see them face lengthy prison terms.

The suspects were interrogated under suspicion of abusing the Palestinian detainees, aggravated assault, as well as attempts by some to obstruct interrogation proceedings.

According to the indictment, the soldiers removed the son's blindfold "so that he would see how they were hitting" his father.

The son was said to have suffered a series of wounds to his head " significant swelling" to his face. Whilst the father had multiple broken ribs, a "severely" broken nose, as well as internal bleeding in his stomach.

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

The father's injuries were so severe that he was unable to be questioned and required medical care for 3 days, Haaretz reported.

Military police have said they are investigating whether the incident was motivated by revenge.

Several right-wing politicians slammed the military for prosecuting the soldiers. Likud MK Oren Hazan said the indictment was "another mark of disgrace for a military command that doesn't know how to support its soldiers."

While Bezalel Smotrich, the newly elected leader of the far-right Jewish Home party said his party would give immunity to soldiers from criminal proceedings.

Previous cases

The IDF has previously been mired by accusations and trials for soldiers accused of mistreating Palestinian prisoners.

In September, a Palestinian man was killed after he was beaten by Israeli soldiers during an attempted arrest, according to testimonies from the scene.

In November, a military court charged an Israeli soldier from the Home Front Command's rescue unit with assaulting a blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian detainee.

Soldiers in the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion have been at the center of several controversies in recent years involving right-wing extremism and Palestinians.

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Last month, two soldiers from the battalion caused a brawl with Border Police forces after the soldiers tried to free three Jewish settlers who were arrested for throwing stones at Palestinians. The two soldiers were suspended from their positions.

The same month, Military Police launched an investigation into battalion soldiers after an East Jerusalem man was shot dead by soldiers who claimed he tried to ram them with his car at a West Bank checkpoint.

Suspected revenge

In December, Sgt. Yosef Cohen, 19 and Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, 20, were killed in a drive by shooting in the vicinity of Ofra, in what appeared to be a copycat of an attack the week before that killed the fetus of a woman in advanced pregnancy while injuring seven others from the Jewish settlement.

The attack took place in Assaf Junction, a small Israeli civilian outpost less than 6 kilometers away from Ofra.

A gunman got out of his vehicle and shot indiscriminately at a group of soldiers and civilians before escaping the scene on foot. The IDF later on confirmed that three of the four victims were soldiers, two killed and one moderately wounded.

Weeks after Givat Assaf, two Palestinian suspects were arrested in the Ramallah area as part of the army's efforts to locate the assailant who carried out the deadly attack.

Last week, five Israeli soldiers were arrested for beating the Palestinian detainees.

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