A military court is investigating an incident in which IDF soldiers from the Kfir Brigade were accused of using violent means against Palestinians.
Deputy Commander Adam Melul and another soldier charged with the allegations said in their testimonies on Tuesday that they were "forced" to use violence as a scare tactic.
In their testimonies, the two agreed with Kfir Brigade Commander, Col. Itai Virob, who said the use of violence in such cases was inevitable. Virob was later reprimanded by head of IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni for his remarks.
The accused officer confirmed in his testimony that use of violence "is not something you rule out, as long as it's in moderation". The Kfir combat solider said a small slap on the cheek was acceptable, in order to make a Palestinian raising a commotion "understand and shut up".
He pointed out that the practice was not set in writing, and gave an example of a riot he experienced at a checkpoint. "There, if they didn't use force, they could have brought ten body bags for ten soldiers that day," he said.
The soldier said violence was used to pressure Palestinians during questioning: "Since you only have 10-15 minutes per person, if you don't shoot at his feet, (not literally shoot – H.G.) he won't talk. If you pressure him, there's a chance that the Shin Bet will catch a phone call between people and this will bring results."
When asked how he applied pressure to people being questioned the soldier said, "You grab him by the shoulders, shake him up, grab him by his shirt, drag him, put him on the car. When three people shout at him aggressively, a person will remember that. He will be traumatized."
The soldier said such activity was not out of the ordinary for soldiers: "Certainly not in this incident. It's not an unusual thing that soldiers are educated towards aggression in the IDF."
The combat soldier admitted that it was acceptable to slap a person around during questioning: "You get them scared enough to talk, whether they want to or not." He said he had no knowledge of any written order on the use of violence, and stressed that he was not interested in beating or harming any Arab for no reason.
Anything to 'win'The accused deputy commander, Adam Melul, also testified and said he and his men would do anything to "win". He stressed that only firm action could produce results – as in the case of the Palestinian who murdered the youth in Bat Ayin.
'Violence in moderation is not something you rule out' (Photo: AP)
"We walked three kilometers in complete silence, to circle the house as quietly as possible. I had a soldier with a 39 degree fever with me who was coughing loudly. He held his breath for five minutes so as not to spoil the mission. To save lives, no doubt," he recounted.
Melul said that sometimes the success of these operations depends on aggressive activity. "There was a shooting on Gilo," he said, "We entered Beit Jala and turned the village inside out. Every corner, every hole, everywhere – gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets flew in the air."
He said the complaints of Palestinian children being hit by ricochets and smoke that followed the incident made him feel uneasy, but he maintained that he had no choice: "We couldn't do it any other way, because we were saving lives."
When asked whether it was okay to slap Palestinians on the neck during interrogation, the deputy commander said yes. Melul also said it was acceptable to hold a suspect down during questioning. "Of course… you don't throw him, but you pin him down."
Meanwhile, military defense advocates on Tuesday said they will ask the Judge Advocate General to demand an investigation be launched against Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni for his reprimand of Kfir Brigade Commander, Col. Itai Virob, and the possibility that he worked to undermine court proceedings.
A source said Shamni's decision to reprimand Virob, based on his testimony in court, may have an impact on the trial's outcome.