Border Police Chief Blasts 'Abnormal' Protesters After Violent Scenes at Amona

Maj. Gen. Yaakov Shabtai criticizes group who threw acid and chemicals at officers during evacuation of synagogue at the illegal West Bank outpost.

Police forcibly evacuate protesters from Amona's synagogue, February 2, 2017.
Gil Cohen Magen

The head of the Border Police Saturday harshly criticized protesters who barricaded themselves in and used extreme acts of violence during last week’s evacuation of Amona, calling them an abnormal group.

Although all of the officers injured during the evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost have now been released from hospital, some are still suffering from their injuries – including burns after protesters poured chemicals on them, said Maj. Gen. Yaakov Shabtai.

“Luckily, everyone was released [from the hospital],” said Shabtai, speaking at a cultural event in Be’er Sheva. “But some are still suffering. I can give an example of the police officers I met and talked to on the phone. They have shoulder fractures, fractures in their arms and legs, serious burn injuries.

“I spoke with a police officer [on Friday] who was hospitalized for the second time because of third-degree burns to his eyes,” said Shabtai. “All sorts of materials were poured on and thrown at the force – from the level of fire extinguishers, all sorts of acids that we didn’t know what they were, bleach, paint, everything available,” he said. “In addition to the injury from an iron bar that a policeman was hit in the face with, and the boards that simply impaled them through the windows, this was not the behavior of a normal group.”

When asked whether the decision to conduct a very “gentle” evacuation was an operational or a political decision, Shabtai said it was a combination of the two – but later clarified that politicians had not interfered in operational considerations.

Shabtai’s comments were much harsher than those made by official police spokesmen during the evacuation and afterward. The police said that about 60 police officers were injured during the evacuation, which took place over two days (Wednesday and Thursday). This number included police officers who were not hospitalized, as well as others who suffered from hypothermia in the freezing conditions.

The Magen David Adom rescue service said some 60 people received medical treatment during the evacuation, including 18 civilians and 42 members of the security forces.

As well as those injured during the violent scenes, other injuries included cases of frostbite and dehydration, as well as one person who was stung by a scorpion. The rescue service said half of the officers taken to hospital were the victims of violence, and not due to other factors like the weather.

The police said 15 young people were arrested during the evacuation because they “disturbed the peace and used violence against police officers.” All were later released from detention.

The number of protesters who barricaded themselves in during the evacuation was estimated at about 1,000, but the most violent group consisted of a few dozen people in the outpost’s synagogue, which was the last space to be evacuated.

The commander of the police’s Judea and Samaria District, Maj. Gen. Moshe Bareket, told reporters after the evacuation that the police had documented those who barricaded themselves in, and that they would face the full legal implications. No more arrests have been made as of yet, although the police insist they will make further arrests in due course.