On May 18, 2021, just before 10 pm, a first lieutenant and two soldiers in the armored corps approached the home of two Palestinian doctors in the town Tekoa. One of the soldiers stood guard outside while the officer and the other soldier entered the garage and used knives to slash the couple’s tires on their two cars for no apparent reason.
The incident was documented by security cameras and in the footage the soldiers are heard swearing as they neared the house. After damaging the vehicles the officer is heard telling the soldiers: “Guys, don’t say a word about what’s happening here”, to which the soldiers replied, “It’s all good” and “I’m with you brother, whatever you want”. According to the indictment, while leaving the premises the soldiers were heard saying “This is the way they need… this is how they should be punished.”
All the while, the couple was panicking in their living room as they witnessed what was taking place in their house through the security cameras, which were broadcasting the destruction in real time. In his testimony the husband describes the couple’s fear when armed men suddenly appeared on their doorstep and destroyed their property: “I didn’t go downstairs to prevent them from doing it because I was afraid they would kill me”. The couple experienced this incident as a severe violation of their personal safety which had a profound and lasting effect on them.
Following the incident in which the garage was invaded and their vehicles damaged, the couple was forced to pay a large sum to replace all their tires. In addition, they had to install a new electric gate which cost 12,000 shekels in the hope it would protect them from such attacks in future.
Yesh Din accompanied the case from start to finish; following the investigation the Military Advocate General Corps (MAGC) served indictments against two of the three personnel involved – officer Y.T and soldier M.K, who were documented on the cameras slashing the tires. Officer Y.T was accused of the offense of malicious damage and the secondary offense of misconduct because he was an officer at the time he committed the offense and he led the soldier under his command astray. The soldier M.K was charged with malicious damage to a vehicle with a conspirator.
The victim’s statement submitted to the courts martial by Yesh Din received a rare emphasis in the judgements. In the reasoning for the officer’s judgment, the presiding judges referred to the couple’s sense of terror as they witnessed what was taking place in their home as described by the husband in his statement. The judges addressed the severity of the officer’s actions and considered the “material and emotional damage caused to the victims of the offense reflected in the statement submitted for our consideration, which indicates long term effects as well.” According to the judgement, the soldiers’ action violated the army’s values, primarily the purity of arms, and damaged the army’s reputation.
As part of a plea bargain, the officer was sentenced to 42 days of military labor, a two-month suspended sentence for three years, ordered to pay 1,500 shekels damages to the victims of the offense, and was demoted to second lieutenant (a rank that allows the accused to serve in a command role during reserves service). Soldier M.K’s sentence was also determined as part of the plea bargain and he was sentenced to 30 days of military labor, a three-month suspended sentence for two years, was demoted to the rank of corporal, and ordered to pay 1,500 shekels damages to the victims of the offense.
Yesh Din’s assistance and the fact that the incident was recorded in its entirety and published in the media helped in indicting and convicting the soldiers. In Yesh Din’s experience, countless similar and far more severe incidents go without a conviction and sometimes without any investigation. The exceptions to the rule, such as this case, allow the military law enforcement system to provide a semblance of a functioning and principled system that legitimizes the daily violence perpetrated under the protracted israeli occupation.