JERUSALEM (AP) — A video showing an Israeli soldier scuffling with Palestinian youths and women at a West Bank protest has been viewed more than 2 million times on Facebook, shining a light on Israeli military policies in the territory.
In the edited video, the masked soldier is seen holding a 12-year-old boy, his arm in a cast, in a chokehold in an attempt to arrest him. The soldier is swarmed by the boy's female relatives, including his mother and sister, who pull at his skin and uniform and slap him. The boy's sister, a 15-year-old sporting a blonde braid, is seen biting the soldier's hand. Bystanders yell, "He is a little boy. His arm is broken."
The soldier struggles with the boy, and then the female crowd, which ripped the mask off his face, for about a minute before a commanding officer arrives to assist him. The soldier then frees himself and releases the boy, angrily throwing a small stun grenade at a group of people as he walks away.
The original video, which was provided to The Associated Press by its creator, local activist and the boy's relative Bilal Tamimi, showed the same footage. Tamimi said Palestinians had hurled stones at the troops, but that he hadn't seen the boy throw stones, though photos broadcast on Israeli TV seemed to show the boy hurling a stone.
The skirmish took place Friday at a weekly protest in the West Bank village of Nebi Saleh, where Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters often clash. Villagers claim a nearby Jewish settlement has restricted access to a nearby spring.
The Israeli military said Sunday that a "violent riot" broke out at the protest and that it tried to detain the boy because he was throwing rocks. The military says the boy was released "to prevent an escalation of violence."
The video sparked accusations from critics that Israel is too heavy-handed in its confrontations with Palestinian protesters, especially minors.
In Israel, the video was seen as capturing the antagonism Israel's soldiers regularly face from stone-throwing Palestinian protesters and raised concerns for the soldiers' safety.
Israeli Channel 2 aired a recording of a man identified as the soldier's father who said he was proud his son showed restraint in the skirmish. Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev called for the military to adopt a new policy that would have allowed the soldier to shoot the Palestinians who scuffled with him.