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Rifle-butt incident cost IDF officer his post

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Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz

JERUSALEM — Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner has been dismissed from his command post following an investigation into an incident in which the Israeli soldier hit a Danish pro-Palestinian activist in the face with his rifle.

Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz relieved Eisner of his position as deputy division commander on “moral grounds,” according to the IDF. Gantz said the probe also showed professional and command failures.

In addition to losing his command, Eisner will not become deputy commander of the Bahd 1 officers’ training school and will be ineligible to serve in commanding positions for the next two years.

Eisner was suspended from his post on April 15, hours after a video of the incident was posted on YouTube by the International Solidarity Movement. The incident occurred during a protest bike ride in the Jordan Valley. Four activists were wounded, Ha’aretz reported.

Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Central Command chief of the IDF, ordered an immediate investigation on April 15 into the incident. Military Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avi Mandelblit also ordered a criminal investigation of Eisner.

Eisner was interrogated by military police investigators for the first time on April 16, Ynet reported.

Eisner reportedly said he regretted 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 injuring his wrist. He is seen later in the video with his wrist and finger in a white bandage.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s office released a statement April 17 condemning the incident. 

“The defence minister has determined, in closed conversations, that there is no contradiction between carrying out operations, appropriate behaviour and preserving the principles and spirit of the IDF,” the statement said.

The statement added that Eisner’s statements in defence of his actions “are not accepted by the defence minister and were never acceptable by the IDF.”

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, on April 14 to protest what the ISM calls on its website “regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers.” Israeli soldiers halted the activists, who were blocking the main thoroughfare to traffic and began taking away their bicycles.

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 that “Such behaviour does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defence Forces and in the State of Israel.”

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