Israeli soldiers turned away two groups of African asylum seekers crossing into the country in June 2015, and sent them back to Egypt in breach of Israel’s Supreme Court, according to a new investigative report by Israel Social TV. New testimonies by the soldiers reveal how the army’s top command and the army spokesperson tried to cover up the incident.
“I was in the operations room when they reported that 27 refugees had crossed the fence,” says D. a former Israeli soldier who served in the Caracal Battalion. “They were detained, bound, and sent back… The battalion commander tried to hide this from the company, and in the operations room soldiers deleted records.” Those records were changed to conform to what the army had hoped to present, he adds. Another soldier who was present told Social TV: “I was in the operations room. They remember this incident but they said that the army erased all the videos connected to the incident, and that we should not talk about it.”
Some of the soldiers documented their testimonies in a notebook, which include descriptions of Israeli soldiers hitting asylum seekers with sticks as the latter were trying to climb over the border fence. Later, they were told to tie them up and send them back to Egypt.
Despite the army’s attempts to whitewash the incident, even the Defense Ministry itself admitted that it had indeed taken place and that it contradicted its official procedures.
According to international law, it is forbidden to send a person back to a country if his or her life is in danger. In 2011, the state announced that it would cease sending back asylum seekers that had just crossed the border from Egypt. The Supreme Court ruled that should the state seek to return someone, it must do so in accordance with international standards.