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Israeli soldier filmed assaulting Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron

New Yorker journalist who posted incriminating video criticised for empathising with soldiers
An Israeli soldier is filmed assaulting Palestinian activist Issa Amro on 13 February 2023 (Screengrab)

An Israeli soldier’s assault on prominent Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, was caught on camera on Monday by a New Yorker journalist, who was criticised for his framing of events.

In a video posted on Twitter by Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, the soldier grabs Amro by his jacket and neck and throws him to the ground. He then kicks Amro before being pulled away by another soldier.

"I never had a source assaulted in front of me until today when an Israeli soldier who stopped my interview did this," Wright tweeted.

“I can't stop thinking how dehumanizing the occupation is on the young soldiers charged with enforcing it,” he added, which was widely criticised in the comments section of the video.

“If you think it's dehumanising to the soldiers, wait till you hear about what it does to Palestinians,” wrote one Middle East scholar.

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Israel's military on Monday jailed the soldier for 10 days.

The incident in Hebron set off an internal Israeli flap, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir - one of several hundred far-right Jewish settlers living in the city in the occupied West Bank - voicing full support for the soldier.

The military said the event began when the soldier, guarding a military post, asked Amro, who approached the post, to step away.

"In response, the Palestinian began recording and cursing the soldier. A verbal confrontation followed, which soon became a physical confrontation, during which the soldier hit the Palestinian," it said in a statement.

"As the video shows, the soldier did not act as expected and did not follow the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) code of conduct."

However, in a Twitter response, Wright said: "The IDF misrepresented what led to this. The soldier initiated the encounter, Amro did not curse him, [he] only asked to call his commander. Nothing to justify the violent assault that followed."

Amro tweeted several videos of the run-up to the incident, writing: "The army spokesman lied about what happened."

In another post he said: "I was detained outside the military post, I started shouting to bring the commander out, the soldiers refused to tell him, it was a trap for me by them. The commander came out only after I was beaten and grabbed by the throat and kicked and pushed on the ground."

The military declined to comment further.

'The story of each Palestinian'

Ben-Gvir called the soldier's sentence - which included a suspension from active combat duties - a "disgrace" and described Amro as an anarchist.

"I fully support the soldier, who did not remain silent. Soldiers deserve to be backed up, not jailed," Ben-Gvir tweeted.

Amro accused the minister of trying to get him killed.

"The soldiers are listening to @itamarbengvir not to their military occupation commanders," Amro tweeted.

In a subsequent post, he added: “It is not about Issa Amro, it is about the Palestinian women and children who are attacked frequently by Israeli soldiers and settlers. All Palestinians are living under Israeli occupation and apartheid. The video of the attack tells the story of each Palestinian in palestine.”

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Amro was detained in November days after filming a soldier assaulting an Israeli activist during a visit by Israeli anti-occupation activists to meet Palestinian residents near the Old City of Hebron.

Amro, an engineer by profession, is a well-known human rights defender in his hometown of Hebron. He is the founder of Youth Against Settlements (YAS), which aims to empower the Palestinian community in the face of Israeli settlers in Hebron's Old City.

The group has become the primary source of information about Israeli settler and military activities in the city, and it regularly organises events to help the local community, such as harvesting olives.

Amro's house also serves as YAS's community centre. The office was forced to close for 12 days in November as the Israeli army announced a military closure on parts of Hebron, including where Amro's house is located, in a move condemned by UN experts.

Earlier in November, an estimated 32,000 Israeli settlers marched through Hebron, assaulting Palestinians and vandalising some of the shops.

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