The Jerusalem police are regularly surveilling the protest tent encampment outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence, even when there are no demonstrations at Balfour Street.
Some of the security cameras in the area were installed over the past few months, in response to the growing size and frequency of the protests as well as the erection of a tent camp at the site by anti-Netanyahu activists.
The cameras are operated by the Jerusalem police’s Mabat camera surveillance unit, which monitors the images they transmit and dispatches officers to the scene when they observe unusual activity.
Activists sometimes sleep overnight in the tent encampment, which is staffed by protesters during the day. Supporters of the prime minister have created their own, smaller tent camp nearby.
The use of security cameras to monitor the protest tent encampment on a regular basis was disclosed in an indictment issued against two activists accused of assaulting a Netanyahu supporter during a confrontation at the site on September 20.
According to the indictment, a Netanyahu supporter was standing on a chair to film the confrontation when a man pulled it out from under her, causing her to fall and suffer minor injuries. The second defendant, a boy, is charged with assaulting the woman during the incident.
The police included images of the tent camp and the surrounding area from police security cameras, which are separate from the Shin Bet security service cameras that are part of the prime minister’s security detail.
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The video submitted by police is very high-resolution, does not include audio and shows the cameras following events at the scene. Also disclosed was the fact that the cameras are operated by police observers, who noticed the confrontation and dispatched officers to the scene.
One officer said in his statement that the observers gave him a detailed description of one of the suspects based on the images transmitted by the Mabat cameras, as well as precise directions that led him to the suspect. A second officer described how the cameras helped him: “While driving down Agron Street, an observer from the Mabat unit reported that she saw a violent act involving a number of individuals, I identified a suspect from the [description] of Mabat – a tall man, of stocky build, wearing a black shirt and a black face mask.”
The adult activist refused to cooperate with police questioning, saying: “I refuse to cooperate with a one-sided political police.” He claimed that he warned the Netanyahu supporter a number of times that the chair she was standing on was his. Officers questioning him asked whether he was “a leftist or a rightist,” while officers who questioned the complainant described the anti-Netanyahu activists as “a group of leftists.”
A few months ago, Balfour Street protests noticed that new surveillance cameras had been installed in and around Paris Square. Israel’s Globes newspaper reported that they were put up for the purpose of securing the demonstrations, at a cost of about 500,000 shekels ($148,000).