Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who was filmed being assaulted by an Israeli solder on Monday, told CNN he is physically and psychologically affected by the attack and fears for his life.
“I am injured. I have pain in both my arms, my back and my leg and I am psychologically affected from this attack and from the consequences of the attack – [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben Gvir supporting the soldier, the army lying about what happened,” he told CNN’s Lynda Kinkade on Connect the World.
“Now I am afraid about my life and I’m afraid about the life of the people who are still living in the same area from any kind of revenge from the Israeli soldiers,” he added.
Lawrence Wright, a writer for the New Yorker magazine who was with Amro at the time, posted video of the assault on Twitter. It showed two IDF soldiers manhandling the well-known activist, throwing him onto the ground, and one soldier kicking him, before that soldier is pushed away by other troops.
In response to CNN’s interview with Amro, Israel Defense Forces international spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said there was “no justification” for the soldier’s behavior, but suggested Amro had provoked the incident.
“There was no justification whatsoever for the soldier’s behavior. It was handled swiftly and aggressively by Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, the Central Command general.
“But I know Issa Amro from my time as a battalion commander – and again, I am saying there is no justification for it – but he is a provocateur. He provokes soldiers all the time, looking for a young 19-year-old solider to make that kind of mistake, and sadly it happened. And we took care of it,” Hecht said.
Hecht said he had tried to contact Amro to discuss the incident, and shared a screenshot of a message to the activist dated Monday.
“We reached out with him to try to dialogue with him, me personally, like we did with Lawrence Wright, who met us. And we said what we needed to say,” Hecht said.
The Israeli soldier who was filmed assaulting Amro in Hebron was sentenced to 10 days in military jail.
Journalist rejects IDF version of events
In a statement on Monday the IDF said the soldier had “asked a Palestinian who approached” a military post to “step away.”
“In response, the Palestinian began recording and cursing the soldier. A verbal confrontation followed, which soon became a physical confrontation, during which the soldier hit the Palestinian,” the IDF statement said.
But Wright rejected that version of events, saying “the soldier initiated the encounter” and that Amro “did not curse or interfere only asked that he call the commander.” He posted video of Amro making that request.
Amro repeated this account to CNN. He said it was a “typical day” in Hebron for him: showing a journalist or an international visitor around the different neighborhoods, especially where Israeli military is present and enforcing the military system.
He said one of the soldiers didn’t like that, and made the photographer accompanying Wright delete the footage he took around Hebron. Amro then filmed that encounter, which he said upset the soldiers.
“The Israeli military in Hebron, they try to hide the truth, they try to hide what’s going on… So the soldier first detained me, threatened me, then he beat me up and threw me to the ground and hit me again and threatened me again, and then the army lied despite that everything was on video,” he said.
The Palestinian activist said he asked to speak to the soldier’s commander, because he knew he was legally allowed to walk in his “own streets” and film with his camera.
The US Office of Palestinian Affairs said on Twitter: “We condemn aggression towards civil society & the attack on Issa Amro. We note the IDF has said it disciplined the soldier involved. Authorities must exercise restraint towards civilians in the West Bank, not resort to disproportionate violence anywhere, including at checkpoints.”
Asked to comment on that statement, Amro told CNN he thanks the Office of Palestinian Affairs, but says he wants the Biden administration to reopen the Palestinian consulate in East Jerusalem and reverse the Trump administration’s policies.
He said, “unfortunately what happened to me is happening almost every day,” adding that he filed many complaints to the Israeli police about soldier and settler violence, but saying he had gotten no accountability.
“I want this kind of violence to stop. I want the American State Department and American administration to really put high pressure and make the occupation and apartheid costly for the Israeli government,” he continued.
“It’s a military system, it’s not only about individual soldiers…I want the American administration to target the military system.”