JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli soldier stranded after a raid in occupied territory was escorted to safety by a Palestinian man in the same village the troops had targeted, witnesses and media reports said.
The Israeli military said Friday a battalion commander had been suspended from duties for the soldier having been abandoned on enemy turf in the raid this week, an infraction which Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz saw as a “serious incident.”
Soldiers had raided Boudros village near the West Bank city of Ramallah to confront stone-throwing protesters against a barrier built on West Bank land, which Israel calls a security measure and Palestinians condemn as a land-grab.
In the stormy weather, a soldier charged with guarding a street ended up isolated from his peers and was unaware when they withdrew from the area, reports and witnesses said.
A Palestinian man identified as Mohammed said he went to tell a soldier he noticed standing alone on a village road that the others had withdrawn.
The soldier “seemed confused and his face turned red,” Mohammed said, adding he then escorted the soldier toward his own home where other soldiers later picked him up.
Israeli media said the soldier, armed with a personal weapon, had been isolated from his unit for half an hour. A military spokeswoman called it “a matter of minutes” before he was reunited with other troops.
Ayyed Morrar, a local activist in Boudros, told an Israeli television station of the assistance given the soldier:
“We oppose the occupation and are willing to pay the price for freedom, but not in a way that leads to killing.”
There were no reported casualties on either side in Boudros, a flashpoint of ongoing tensions in West Bank land Israel captured in a 1967 war which Palestinians seek now for a state.
Much of the conflict near Boudros is over a barrier Israel built in the aftermath of a bloody uprising a decade ago, calling it a security measure to prevent armed penetrations of its towns and cities.
Palestinians say the barrier cuts across privately-owned farmland. Dozens of Palestinians accompanied by Israeli and foreign activists, confront Israeli forces in protests against the barrier and other Israeli measures on a weekly basis in the Boudros area, including nearby villages.
Western-backed peace talks for a settlement of the conflict collapsed in 2010 and exploratory discussions to get diplomacy back on track ended in failure last month in Jordan.
Additional reporting by Jihan Abdallah, Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Michael Roddy