Hundreds of members of the radical ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem Faction blocked traffic on Sunday evening near the Haredi city of Bnei Brak to protest the arrest of a yeshiva student who refused to report to the draft office.
Some of the protesters threw glass bottles and rocks at police officers who arrived at the scene to disperse the violent demonstration.
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An officer was documented punching a protester who was in police custody and being held down by other officers. In the video, which circulated on social media, the protester can be seen lying on the ground with his arms held by officers, while a female officer repeatedly struck him on the head.
Israel Police said in response that the incident was a case of "inappropriate conduct," and that "the event will be looked into and passed on to the proper authorities." The police added that this incident, "does not minimize the seriousness of the violent protest that officers were forced to handle, during which stones were thrown at officers, horses and police cars, while major traffic arteries were blocked illegally."
The police used water cannons and “skunk spray,” a foul-smelling liquid that is not physically harmful but has a putrid smell that sticks to protesters’ clothing, to disperse the crowd. Thirteen protesters have been arrested after they blocked main traffic arteries, failed to heed police officers’ orders and hurled rocks at officers. One officer was injured after he was struck in the face by a rock and received medical attention at the scene.
Police blocked several main roads along Highway 4 near the Bar-Ilan interchange. Earlier, streets in Bnei Brak were closed off in an attempt to block the protesters’ access to the main highway, but the protesters managed to breach the barriers.
The protest caused serious traffic jams in the area and police asked drivers to use alternate routes.
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The police said that they view with severity every disturbance of the peace and harming of police officers and will continue to take firm action against violent lawbreakers.
The Jerusalem Faction said in a statement: “We are taking to the streets to hold a mighty protest against the criminal arrest of a yeshiva student and against the draft law that has inflicted great damage.”
Last week, members of the faction demonstrated in Jerusalem and blocked traffic near the city’s central bus station. At that demonstration, two protesters were arrested and three police officers were lightly injured. The police used riot control measures, including water cannons.