Israeli Soldiers Committed Hate Crime Against Palestinians to Avenge Friends’ Death. Their Commanders Covered It Up

A team of reconnaissance fighters from the Israel Defense Forces Golani Brigade committed a hate crime against Palestinians in a Nablus refugee camp, but their commanders decided not to punish the troops involved. A Haaretz investigative report about the incident shows that when the information about what transpired reached senior officers in the infantry brigade, including its commander, it was decided to cover up the whole episode. The top IDF brass only learned what happened after Haaretz sought a response from them – more than two years after the fact.

The Nablus incident, which took place during the night between February 15-16, 2018, is rooted in a different event that also involved the functioning of the IDF's Golani Brigade: Two days earlier there had been a multi-vehicle accident on Route 6 in which three of its reconnaissance fighters were killed – members of a team commanded by 1st Lt. Guy Eliahu.

The dry facts are that the soldiers were traveling in a convoy of three camouflaged Hummers, slowly and close together on the main highway, with only dim red lights. At one point they came to a sudden stop, whereupon a truck ran into the last vehicle; two soldiers were killed immediately and a third died later of his injuries; other soldiers were also lightly injured.

A Haaretz (Hebrew edition) report in March shed light on a series of failures in the conduct of those involved in that accident (both before and after it), revealing what appear to be coordinated testimonies, efforts to obstruct justice, a forged document and senior Golani officers who turned a blind eye to what actually happened. Eliahu, for his part, was eventually punished much later with a very brief prison sentence.

From new information gathered here, it emerges that the February 13, 2018 accident was part of a chain of events. Two days later Eliahu and his troops arrived at the settlement of Shavei Shomron in the northern West Bank, where the elite reconnaissance battalion was based while conducting routine security operations.

The soldiers were in low spirits and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Shimon Siso, decided the best thing would be to get them quickly back into a routine. “They have to resume activity so they don’t get depressed,” Siso reportedly told the battalion officers.

That same day it was decided to send Eliahu and his team on a nighttime arrest operation in the Nablus refugee camp. When the fighters returned to Shavei Shomron before dawn, they did not report any unusual occurrences. But later in the morning a soldier from the Civil Administration, the governing Israeli body operating in the territories, came to the base. After asking to speak to those in charge, he was referred to Siso. The soldier told him that he had received documentation from local Palestinians showing that soldiers from Eliahu’s team had vandalized cars in the refugee camp and punctured their tires.