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Israeli soldier refuses to apologise over Facebook photos with Palestinians

A former Israeli soldier who posted photos on Facebook of herself in uniform smiling beside bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners has admitted her actions were “thoughtless”, but she stopped short of apologising.

Both the Israeli army and Palestinian officials condemned Eden Aberjil over the photos — one of which was accompanied on Facebook by an exchange with a friend including jokes and sexual innuendoes.

Aberjil called her decision to post the photos, taken in 2008 near the Gaza Strip, “thoughtless and innocent”. But she added: “I still don't understand what wasn't ok. There was no statement in the photos about violence, about disrespect, about anything that would hurt that person. I just had my picture taken with someone in the background,” she told Israel's Army Radio. However, “when I understood that so many people were hurt by those pictures, I removed them”.

In a separate interview, Aberjil lashed out at the international uproar over the pictures, reminders of the snapshots taken in 2003 by American soldiers at an Iraqi prison showing Iraqi detainees, humiliated and terrified. However, the Israeli pictures showed no signs of physical abuse or coercion.

“I did not humiliate those detainees. I didn't hit them, I didn't act toward them unpleasantly. It's completely different than the American soldier some are trying to compare me to,” she told Israel Radio.

She said she was shocked by the international interest, and claimed such things happen “every day” in the Israeli army.

Palestinians are routinely handcuffed and blindfolded when they are arrested to stop them from trying to flee.

One photo showed Aberjil sitting beside a blindfolded Palestinian man slumped against a concrete barrier, while she leans towards him. Another shows her smiling at the camera with three blindfolded Palestinian men behind her.

The photos, taken in 2008 near the Gaza Strip, drew sharp criticism from the Israeli military, pro-Palestinian advocacy groups and Palestinian officials.

Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli combat officers that criticises Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, said the pictures showed how Israel's occupation of Palestinian areas has become “so routine... you lose the ability to see them as human beings”.

Captain Barak Raz, an Israeli military spokesman, said the pictures amount to “a serious violation of our morals and our ethical code”.

It isn’t clear if the army can punish Aberjil because she has finished her compulsory military service.

Extract from the Facebook posts

Friend1: “You look so sexy like that”

Eden Abergil: “Yeah I know .... what a day it was...look how he completes my picture, I wonder if he’s got Facebook! I'll have to tag him in the picture! lol”

Friend2: “LOL you psycho I wonder who’s the photographer”

Friend2: “...He’s got a ****-** for you lol for sure!”

Eden Abergil: Lol no honey he’s got a ****-** for you this is why you took that picture lol you took my picture!!!!”

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