The Israeli army said Monday it has suspended an officer who hit a foreign activist in the face with his gun, in an attack that was condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner has been suspended until the conclusion of the inquiry which has been opened," a military spokesman said.
The assault took place on Saturday during a bicycle ride in the Jordan Valley near Jericho which involved Palestinians and foreign activists.
According to footage a protester posted on YouTube, Eisner is seen suddenly smashing his M-16 rifle into the face of a blond demonstrator in an apparently unprovoked attack.
The images were picked up by an Israeli TV station late on Sunday, sparking condemnation from Netanyahu, and dominating the headlines in Monday's papers.
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"Such behaviour is not characteristic of the soldiers and commanders of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces)," Netanyahu said in a statement released late on Sunday.
"It has no place in the IDF and the State of Israel."
Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz also condemned the attack which he said would be "thoroughly investigated and treated with the utmost severity."
The military described the incident as "very serious" and said it was looking into "the circumstances leading up to this incident as well as on its repercussions," a spokeswoman told AFP.
The activist is reportedly a Danish national who arrived in Israel two months ago to join a Palestinian solidarity movement.
Quoting a military source, Israel's Channel 10 television said the officer apparently lost his patience as he and his troops tried to turn away cyclists shouting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Palestinian flags from an area defined as a closed military zone.