The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday announced sanctions against four reserve soldiers who used military equipment to protest against their release from fighting in the Gaza Strip last week.
Video and photos of the protest shared on social media showed banners hanging from the Hummer jeeps the reservists were returning to the Tze’elim Base after spending three months fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
The banners read: “We were released without subduing [the enemy],” with the Hebrew letter lamed in “lehacria” [“to subdue”] styled in a font similar to that in the logo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party.
The protest came against the backdrop of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant‘s announcement that heavy combat operations would soon end in the northern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip.
“Expressions of protest by IDF servicemen with military equipment go against orders and have no place in the IDF, not during routine and not in wartime,” the IDF said on Sunday following an internal investigation.
The commander of the convoy was suspended from reserve duty for six months, while three additional soldiers received a so-called command note. A command note, which becomes part of a soldier’s record, may affect future promotions.
The army’s code of conduct was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year when thousands of IDF reservists threatened to refuse to serve due to the Netanyahu government’s now-shelved judicial reform proposals.
Some 11,000 reservists, including 1,000 air force personnel, said they would refuse to serve in protest of judicial reform, raising warnings about damage to the IDF’s readiness to respond to threats.
While Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi described the judicial reform debate as “legitimate,” he stressed that the IDF’s role was to defend the state and allow disputes to occur “under safe conditions.”
Last March, Netanyahu described soldiers’ refusal to report for duty as an existential threat, saying it “threatens the foundation of our existence, and it must have no place in our ranks.”