A soldier who refused to participate in demolishing abandoned homes in a Gaza Strip settlement was sentenced Tuesday to 56 days’ imprisonment.

Corporal Avi Bieber, 19, an American-born Israeli, was condemned after a disciplinary hearing before Colonel David Menachem, deputy commander of the Israeli army’s Gaza division.

Bieber had asked to be tried by a military tribunal, but the military advocate general denied his request. After a hearing that lasted more than three hours, Menachem sentenced him to the maximum punishment available: 28 days for refusing to follow a military order and an additional 28 days for threatening and insulting a commander.

On Sunday  Bieber, who serves in the army’s Engineering Corps, refused to remove settlers who were disrupting the demolition of abandoned homes in Gush Katif, the main Israeli settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip. The army was destroying the empty buildings to prevent anti-disengagement settlers from barricading themselves there.

After refusing to participate Bieber was disarmed, arrested, and removed from the scene, while settlers gathered outside military headquarters to protest his arrest. 

“I didn’t come to Israel to beat up Jews,” Bieber said.

 Bieber will also be tried later on separate charges of giving media interviews during and after the incident without authorization from the IDF Spokesman’s Office.

Bieber’s parents, who were not present at the hearing, expressed support for their son and said their lawyer would appeal what they called a ‘harsh and unfair punishment.’

On Tuesday settlers constructed a protest outpost at the location of the Sunday incident. During Bieber’s hearing several dozen right-wing activists also demonstrated in front of the Gaza Division’s headquarters in Gush Katif.

 During the protest, Itamar Ben-Gvir, a well-known extremist leader, was detained for questioning by Israeli police. He was later released to house arrest in Hebron, where he lives, but the army issued a restraining order barring him from entering Gaza – the first such order aimed at activists opposing the Gaza pullout.

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