Five Israeli soldiers were charged with beating two handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainees, according to an indictment filed in an Israeli military court on Thursday.
The soldiers, whose names were redacted from the indictment, are charged with abuse and aggravated assault.
According to the indictment, on a day in early January the soldiers punched, slapped, kicked and beat the two detainees, hitting them in their head, face, chest, legs and more.
The detainees were arrested as part of a military sweep following the killing of two Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian gunman at a bus stop in the West Bank in December.
The West Bank is a Palestinian territory, considered illegally occupied by Israel in the eyes of much of the international community. Israel disputes that characterization, but its military continues to maintain broad authority, controlling main roads and checkpoints, as well as having a presence in settlements.
“During the time when they were carrying out this violent action and these strikes, they were swearing at the prisoners,” the indictment said. The prisoners were crying out in pain. At one point, one of the soldiers records the beating on his cell phone, according to the indictment.
“The [soldiers] were shouting out cries of happiness and cheers, and all of this was going on in front of the camera,” the indictment said.
The two detainees needed to be taken to a Jerusalem hospital after they were assessed at the clinic on the Beit El military base in the West Bank.
The indictment described the injuries suffered by the detainees. One of the detainees had broken ribs and his nose was broken; he also suffered from internal bleeding. He was hospitalized for three days. The second detainee had soft tissue damage in his head, causing severe swelling.
Two of the soldiers were also charged with obstruction of justice for trying to coordinate their stories.
A military defense attorney representing the soldiers said the charges should be dismissed.
“This indictment should not have been filed to begin with, and we are confident that by the end of the trial all the details will be clarified and things will look differently,” Israeli news site YNet reported, citing the attorney.
“These are outstanding soldiers, whose comrades were killed just a month prior, [and who were] forced into a situation in which they had to carry out the arrest of those who murdered their comrades … the circumstances relating to their mental health should be taken into consideration,” the lawyer said.