Ten demonstrators and four police officers were injured in clashes Wednesday morning in the northern Golan Heights, as residents protested the building of wind turbines on agricultural land that belongs to Druze villages in the area, police said.
Residents reported that police fired sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators and farmers in the fields, and police said they arrested eight people. Medical sources said that the Majdal Shams hospital and Ziv Medical Center in Safed treated nine people for tear gas and smoke inhalation.
The confrontations lasted about three hours in several locations in a 10-kilometer area that included orchards and open fields. They ended when the police and work teams brought in to install the turbines left the area. Afterward, hundreds of residents of the area’s Druze villages came to the police station in Masadeh, asking that those who were arrested be released.
On Sunday, the Energix Renewable Energies company began test drilling for the construction of a wind turbine farm near the Druze communities of Masadeh and Majdal Shams. The farm is to boast 31 turbines to be built at a cost of 700 million shekels (around $215 million).
There is considerable opposition to the project within the villages, even though some local landowners have signed contracts allowing the turbines to be built on their property. Those landowners were subject to considerable pressure after they signed, and most of them have requested to cancel their contracts.
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There was a large police presence in the area at the beginning of the week, even before the work began, but on Sunday they conducted the work undisturbed.
On Monday, some of the residents started to protest; a local action committee that had been set up in the Druze villages with the support of the region's clergy declared that there would be a general strike on Thursday. The committee also called on the residents, landowners and religious figures to demonstrate.