“We followed our commander with our eyes closed, we trusted him, and we didn’t think at any moment that what he was telling us to do was illegal,” the soldiers said.
The military court rejected the prosecution’s appeal to remand into custody four of the soldiers who were released on Friday, and ruled that their testimony was believable.
Presiding over the case was Judge David Rosen, who instructed the four soldiers to return to regular activity in their units.
The fifth soldier, who sat in the front seat of the vehicle and shot the Palestinian civilian, remained in custody, as did the commander. The two will be brought before the court on Tuesday for a hearing determining their continued imprisonment.
According to the five soldiers, initial information about their anticipated assignment was only given them after being dropped of by the helicopter.
Secret missionOne of the soldiers told investigators that his commander indicated that the force was going to carry out a special and secret mission, which was not to be discussed even after it was completed.
The commander told the soldiers what would take place, and according to one of the soldiers, “it sounded great, a mission with lots of action, none of the soldiers thought it was something that wasn’t allowed”.
According to the soldiers, their commander told them to lay face down in the back seat of the vehicle, which they did without hesitation. One of the soldiers pointed out that they didn’t know what was going on in the front seat between the commander, their fellow soldier, and the young Palestinian civilian who was shot.
Even after leaving the scene, the soldiers said they believe what had happened was according to orders. They said the commander told them that they need not give details of the incident to senior officers, and that if they were asked to, he would explain what happened himself.
It was only several hours later that the soldiers began to feel they may have strayed from military guidelines, after being told by the company’s first lieutenant that what had occurred was not part of the force’s instructions.
In talks with their attorneys, the soldiers did not express anger towards their commander, and said they understood he only wanted to carry out the best military operation he could, and that he did not wish to harm anyone.
Attorneys Lilach Rubin and Gil Dachuach said the decision not to keep the soldiers in custody was just. The attorneys intend on requesting a hearing at the military prosecutor’s office, in order to allow the soldiers to give their full testimony in an effort to avoid having an indictment filed against them.