Denmark Asks Israel for Clarifications Over Beating of Activist by IDF Officer

Danish activist Andreas Ias denies resorting to violence before being hit in the face with an M-16 rifle by a senior IDF officer.

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The Danish ambassador on Monday asked Israel to explain a senior IDF officer's assault on a Danish peace activist near Jericho on Saturday. Meanwhile Haaretz has learned that the officer apparently ignored orders issued after similar incidents involving peace protesters.

Video footage posted on YouTube showed Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, deputy commander of the IDF's Jordan Valley brigade, striking Danish activist Andreas Ias in the face with an M-16 rifle during a cycle rally near Jericho in the West Bank.

Israeli army Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner hitting an unidentified activist with an M-16 rifle, April 14, 2012.Credit: AP / ISM

Following disturbances caused by Jewish settlers who wished to march to Jericho in August 2010, instructions were issued not to use reserve forces to handle such incidents. Accordingly, Eisner was supposed to wait until large police reinforcements, who are more experienced in dealing with disturbances, arrived on the scene.

The brigade's commanders said in the inquiry after that incident that since the Jordan Valley is relatively quiet, the troops there are almost always reserve soldiers, who have little experience in dispersing crowds.

These conclusions were implemented in December 2011, when a group of 15 youngsters crossed the border fence and tried to set up an outpost in Jordan Valley's Qasr al-Yahud. Eisner commanded the troops that arrived at the scene. The document summing up the incident, which Haaretz has obtained, says Eisner asked for reinforcements of border police and commandos from the brigade.

Ultimately an experienced border police unit arrived several hours later, and evacuated the protesters without violence, the document says.

But on Saturday Eisner acted contrary to the instructions previously issued and tried to disperse the protesters using troops who were not trained to do so, without border police support.

Haaretz's probe indicates that at no stage was the West Bank police headquarters notified of the event. The brigade's commanders noted in the past that Palestinians may try to demonstrate at the al-Auja junction, where Saturday's incident took place, because of the proximity of buildings to the road. The troops had been trained and equipped for such a scenario, but no part of the training was implemented in response to Saturday's incident .

Danish ambassador to Israel Liselotte Plesner met Rafi Shotz on Monday, Deputy director-General for Europe in the Foreign Ministry, and asked for clarifications of the incident. and requested updates on the investigation after its completion.

Plesner said Denmark approves of the denunciations issued by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the incident.

Denmark's Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal said in a statement that Denmark is still unaware of all of the circumstances surrounding the event and added that the Danish activist will receive all necessary consular assistance if he so wishes.

The IDF spokesman commented: "The Central Command is evaluating the situation with all the officials who deal with disturbances of the peace and security, to ensure public safety and prevent friction. The investigation into Saturday's incident is still ongoing so we cannot refer to it specifically."



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