IDF soldiers injure left-wing activists during West Bank protest, sparking outcry
Several left-wing Israeli and Palestinian activists were injured in the southern Hebron hills on Friday afternoon after the IDF dispersed a protest in the area.
In a video of the incident, which took place near the illegal Avigayil outpost in the West Bank, an Israeli officer can be seen forcibly pushing an activist in his 60s to the ground; he was then hospitalized. The clip has circulated widely on social media and Israeli TV channels.
The military claimed the protesters violently blocked the road to Avigayil, a charge the protesters vehemently deny. About 40 activists attended the event, which aimed to raise awareness of inequalities in access to water between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank.
âWe weren’t even close to Avigayil. No one touched a soldier, no one had contact with a soldier, until the soldiers jostled each other [the demonstrators] off the road, âsaid Lexie Botzum, an American Jewish activist who attended the protest.
In videos of the incident, the Israeli commander can be seen repeatedly pushing apparently peaceful protesters out of the road leading to the outpost. In one clip, he can be seen throwing left-wing protester Eli Ziv, 65, to the ground. Ziv was then hospitalized in Tel Aviv with broken bones and facial injuries. He’s due to have surgery this week.
âI have been participating in demonstrations in the Occupied Territories for 40 years. But I have never seen such blatant use of violence against Israeli protesters as the one I have seen today, âsaid Meretz MP Mossi Raz, who attended the protest.
In a statement, the IDF said a “violent protest” took place after activists gathered near the entrance to West Bank outpost Avigayil, requiring the use of crowd control .
“The demonstrators started to block the entrance to the city, tried to physically attack the soldiers, cursed, threatened and even laid on the wheels of military vehicles,” the IDF said in a statement.
But the military added that videos showing the commander pushing protesters were under investigation.
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“The conduct of the officer as reflected in the video does not correspond to what one would expect of an IDF officer – the incident is being investigated and lessons learned will be fired accordingly, âthe IDF said in response.
Protesters dismissed claims they attacked soldiers, with one calling the charges “completely fabricated.”
“If they mean that, let them show a video that shows violence,” said Tuly Flint, an Israeli activist from the left-wing group Fighters for Peace who helped organize the protest.
According to protesters, Israeli soldiers started firing tear gas around two minutes after the start of the demonstration. Several protesters were injured after the cartridges were thrown into the crowd, including two Palestinians who were directly affected.
âThere was tear gas fired everywhere with reckless abandon. You can’t even call it a dispersal of the crowd, because we had already been dispersed, âsaid Sam Stein, a leftist US-Israel activist.
âThere was no call to disperse, nothing. The first thing we heard from them was the tear gas and stun grenades, âFlint said.
Five protesters, including Flint, were arrested during the protest. The IDF said Israeli police made the arrests, but photos from the scene appear to show the militants are blindfolded and being held by soldiers.
In Flint’s case, an officer can be seen placing his knee on his neck as soldiers detain him. All the activists were released several hours later without charge.
âWe did not resist. We believe in non-violence, we do not resist the agents of the law. Sprawl out on the floor and strangle myself with one leg on my neck – that was totally redundant, âsaid Flint.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is the leader of the Meretz party, demanded “a thorough investigation” from the Israeli authorities.
“The violence of soldiers against peace activists must end,” Horowitz said in a statement.
The hills of southern Hebron have long seen strong tensions between Israeli soldiers, Palestinian residents and nearby Israeli settlers. Many Palestinian towns in the region are within an Israeli military training area. The Israeli army considers their presence illegal and has repeatedly demolished unauthorized Palestinian buildings in the area.