columnOctober 7

Shame on the State Attorney for charging heroes with homicide

Three Israelis under investigation for the Oct. 7 "murder" of a Nukhba terrorist should be awarded high honors, not treated like criminals.

State 
attorney Amit Aisman at the Israel Bar Association's Justice conference in Tel Aviv, Sept. 4, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
State attorney Amit Aisman at the Israel Bar Association's Justice conference in Tel Aviv, Sept. 4, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

The only ray of light shining on this week’s revelation that three Israelis are under investigation for the Oct. 7 “murder” of a Nukhba terrorist is that most of the public is horrified that the men in question, who risked their lives to rescue victims while battling Hamas monsters, are being treated like criminals rather than heroes.

When the gag order on the case was eased on Sunday, and reports of the arrest of the trio emerged, two of the “suspects,” Saar Ofir and Yisrael Biton, came forward to identify themselves and present their version of events to local media outlets.

Their stories rang completely true. But even if they hadn’t, an account of the details shouldn’t have been necessary. Whatever way the Hamas barbarian met his death on Oct. 7, it was justified. It beggars belief that the State Attorney’s Office feels otherwise.

It’s particularly outrageous that the civilians who rushed to the south as soon as they realized that atrocities were being committed—during the hours that security forces were still waiting for orders to act—should be charged with anything, let alone homicide.

Given the behavior of State Attorney Amit Aisman, it’s a wonder that the guys in question weren’t also slapped with speeding tickets. Aisman and his crew don’t see it that way, of course.

Incensed at the criticism being heaped on them, they released a statement on Sunday—following what they called “serious incitement against prosecutors and police officers”—clarifying the reason for their move.

“In Dec. 2023, an investigation was opened after information was received about the theft of weapons from National Counter-Terrorism Unit (Yamam) fighters who were killed in battle on Oct. 7,” the statement began. “As a result of this information, an investigation was conducted that led to the filing of an indictment against ‘R’ for weapons offenses and impersonation [of a soldier], and he has been detained until the end of the proceedings.”

It went on: “Another suspect, ‘S,’ was also investigated, and during his investigation, written statements from him at the time were found, in which he allegedly confessed to killing several terrorists whom he and others had captured alive, as well as to severe acts of violence against the terrorists outside the context of combat. After examining the matter, it was decided that these statements, in which the suspect allegedly confessed to killing terrorists who were captured alive, justify his investigation under caution. During his investigation, it became clear that these were allegedly boastful remarks. Additionally, during a search of the home of the suspect ‘S,’ an illegal pistol and parts of M-16 rifles were found, and he was also investigated under caution for this.”

In an interview with Channel 14, Ofir rightly argued that “there is no such thing as murdering a terrorist; there is either eliminating a terrorist or neutralizing a terrorist.”

Furthermore, he said, what he’s being accused of is a total fabrication—and he has the body-cam footage to prove it. The fact that he knew to equip himself with such a camera already illustrates how ill the Israeli justice system has become.

It’s even more extraordinary that any actions on Oct. 7 against the thousands of terrorists shooting, stabbing, raping, burning and abducting innocent people could possibly be considered illegal. Especially in retrospect, with evidence of the scope of Hamas atrocities on that fateful day.

Nevertheless, Ofir—who on Oct. 7 had recently completed his military service—wanted to set the record straight about his actions, which began at 6:29 a.m. on Simchat Torah nine months ago. Like the rest of the country, he awoke to sirens and realized that something out of the ordinary, even for a rocket attack, was taking place in the south.

So he and two fellow soldiers set out to provide assistance. They ended up joining a Yamam unit that was engaging the terrorists, all the while encountering the lifeless bodies of soldiers and civilians strewn across the roads.

During the fighting, four Yamam officers were killed. Ofir and his two friends opened fire and eliminated a number of terrorists who were crouching over the bodies, preparing to kidnap them to Gaza. After retrieving and handing over the bodies to an Israel Defense Forces gathering point in Yad Mordechai, they returned to fight in Sderot.

This is only a tiny portion of the frightening saga. But anyone faulting Ofir and his ilk for their bravery—which included snatching rifles from the dead to use against terrorists—ought to have his head examined. Or at least be discredited and dismissed from his job.

Then there’s Biton, a volunteer with the United Hatzalah organization, who told Channel 12 on Sunday that he’s still struggling to comprehend his arrest on suspicion of murder. Biton and his friends are accused of having beaten to death a captured and handcuffed Nukhba terrorist on Oct. 7 near Sderot.

“The police officers came to me, grabbed my gun, even though it was licensed, and treated me like the worst of criminals, putting me in a patrol car and shackling my hands and feet,” he recounted. “I was very hurt. I was detained for three days in a cell, while a sentence of 25 years was hanging over my head. And you know why? Because I sinned by getting up, even though I could have stayed home, taking initiative and running to the front.”

Biton said that on Oct. 7 at 7:30 a.m., he and his friends geared up with whatever equipment they could get their hands on—ceramic vests, helmets, etc.—and set off for the south.

“In the midst of all the absolute chaos, two police cars approached us and [the officers inside] shouted, ‘Can you help us?’ Our answer was unequivocally ‘yes,’” he said.

The police then opened a van and took out the Nukhba terrorist they’d arrested during a clash inside one of the communities.

“The terrorist was injured and restrained with handcuffs,” said Biton. “We lifted him into our van from behind and started driving madly towards the Giv’at Ze’ev junction, where they said he would be taken to the Israel Security Agency for interrogation.”

Biton continued: “The police told us to take the person—the terrorist, sorry, he’s not a person; the blood of my brothers and sisters hadn’t yet dried on his hands when I received him. They told us to take this cursed terrorist and leave him at the Giv’at Ze’ev junction for someone with the ISA.”

According to Biton, during the drive, the terrorist tried to kick him. In response, he stomped on the perpetrator’s leg.

“If I’d had any intention of killing him, it would have been easy,” he said. “I had a gun, I had bullets. I’m authorized by law … to shoot him. But I didn’t do it. It’s not my role.”

Furthermore, he added, “If I had wanted to kill him, heaven forbid, I would have thrown him onto the road. I had eight kilometers to kick him out of the car.” Instead, Biton said, he delivered the terrorist to the ISA at the Givat Ze’ev junction and continued on his way.

These men deserve high civilian and military honors. It’s the State Attorney’s Office that warrants utter disgrace—and subsequent police investigation for serving as defense lawyers for the enemy.

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