The IDF said the recorded incident took place on December 22 last year during a violent riot in the Kissufim area and was not, as initially reported not connected to mass protests along the Gaza border in the past two weeks.
The IDF said the video showed only a short section of the violent disturbance that included stone throwing and attempts to sabotage the border fence, and went on for around two hours. During the disturbance, the IDF said, forces called on rioters to stay away from the fence, employed riot control means and fired warning shots in the air. Only after all those measures failed to keep rioters away from the fence was a single shot fired at one of the main instigators of the riot and only when he was just meters away from the fence, the IDF said. According to the IDF, the man shown falling to the ground in the video was shot in the leg.
Once the investigation has been completed, the findings will be handed over to the relevant commanders and to military prosecutors.
The incident sparked controversy with politicians on both right and left lining up to criticize or defend the soldiers.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Bennett’s colleague in the security cabinet, also gave his “full backing to our soldiers, who face off against Hamas day and night,” and added that he was “unmoved” by the video and said the uproar surrounding its publication was evidence that Israel is a “weird” country.
“We take videos from the battlefield, where the fight with a terror organization is going on every day, and we try to draw conclusions in the media,” Erdan said. “We turn an isolated incident committed by one of our soldiers – again, who are involved every day in preventing terrorists from reaching our southern border – and draw conclusions and demand commissions of inquiry.
“I think we have reached a special level of insanity …. I really don’t understand what all the excitement is about. That soldiers were happy they hit a person who had been defined for them as a terrorist while he was near the border?” Erdan told Israel Radio.