Text size

Prison Service troops disguised as Arabs incited Palestinian youths to throwing stones at Israel Defense Forces troops during a weekly demonstration against the separation fence in the West Bank village of Bil'in, village residents said on Friday.

The residents said that the disguised troops told the youths to throw the stones and then joined them in doing so. When they were asked their identity, they presented themselves as Arabs from Lod, a city in central Israel, who arrived with the Israeli and foreign demonstrators.

When the troops, members of the Prison Service special unit Masada, did not heed a request to show identification and were found to be in the possession of firearms, their identities were reportedly exposed. IDF soldiers came to the scene and dispersed them.

A few months ago, the same unit was accused of similar activities in a Bil'in demonstration, after which a military court judge ruled that the unit lacks the authority to operate in the Palestinian territories. It is unclear whether the unit received special permission to operate in this case.

An IDF spokesman rejected the claim that the undercover troops incited the youths, saying they joined them after stones were already being thrown. However, the spokesman also acknowledged that no Palestinian demonstrators were arrested.

Anti-fence protesters, troops face off in West Bank villageAround 50 Israeli, Palestinian and foreign protesters faced off against IDF troops in Bil'in on Friday, in what has become a long-running demonstration against the construction of the separation fence.

According to the IDF spokesman, troops tried to act with restraint toward the protesters, but decided to employ crowd-dispersal measures after demonstrators began to throw stones at soldiers.

Four left-wing Israeli activists were detained for questioning, Israeli media reports said.

The IDF has long since declared the village as a closed military zone, in light of the repeated demonstrations held there on Fridays.

In Jerusalem, the second Friday prayers of the Muslim holy fast month of Ramadan passed without incident, Israel Radio reported.