The Israeli military said on Thursday that it had disciplined soldiers who filmed themselves in multiple videos while one of the group sang a Jewish prayer at a mosque in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The incident came after a prolonged Israeli raid in Jenin and amid rising anger in the West Bank over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.
“Friends, this is the mosque in Jenin,” a narrator says in one circulating video as the camera focuses on a soldier, crouched on the floor with a microphone in hand, singing Shema Yisrael, a centerpiece of daily morning and evening worship and one of the most important prayers in Judaism. The video was posted on social media by Kann news. The Guardian also posted videos of soldiers in the mosque that it said the Reuters news agency had verified, though in neither case was it clear when the videos had been made.
A military spokesman said the soldiers were disciplined for acting “against IDF codes of conduct within a religious establishment.” In a post on social media, the Israeli military wrote that the soldiers were “removed from operational activity.” It added, “The behavior of the soldiers in the videos is serious and stands in complete opposition to the values of the I.D.F.,” or the Israeli Defense Forces. It was not clear what other video or videos the military was referring to.
The episode further raised already high tensions in the West Bank. The Israeli military’s three-day raid in Jenin, which ended on Thursday, killed 12 people and injured 34, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
The war in Gaza appears to have raised Hamas’s standing in the West Bank. Part of a recent poll from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, conducted during a weeklong pause in fighting in Gaza at the end of November, found that support for Hamas had risen in the West Bank to 44 percent, compared with 12 percent three months ago. The findings were based on in-person interviews with 750 people in randomly selected locations in the West Bank.
Despite the Israeli military’s statement condemning the soldiers’ behavior in the mosque, some in Israel expressed sympathy for the soldiers involved. “Every soldier, even if he made an error in judgment, deserves to have support,” Yuli Edelstein, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said in a post on Facebook. “Our soldiers are heroes.”