Israeli Security Forces Defend Use of Rubber Bullets During West Bank Outpost Demolition

Security forces returned to the Havat Gilad outpost in the West Bank to demolish three structures; thirteen people were injured in ensuing clashes with police.

Security forces returned Monday to the Havat Gilad outpost in the West Bank to demolish three structures, in another punitive measure against the illegal settlement. Thirteen people were injured in ensuing clashes with police, settlers said.

The shock and surprise of the community, which thought the Civil Administration has decided to turn a blind eye on its development, sparked a number of protests in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Soldier, Havat Gilad - Moti Milrod
Moti Milrod

The events began at 5 A.M. Monday, when a large police contingent arrived at the ranch and demolished the Auerbach family home, a tent housing five single men, and the foundations of a new structure. Some of the policemen Monday were armed with specialized paintball guns - stronger than the ones used in recreational paintball but designed not to break skin.

Police said Monday that if stones are thrown, it is allowed to respond by firing at the lower body, to deter the attackers and prevent them from getting closer. A spokesman for the Judea and Samaria police assured Monday that protesters were only fired at after stones were thrown.

Eyewitness testimonies and footage of the incident paint a different picture, though. Of the 13 people hit by the rubber bullets, two were shot in the back. Yehuda Shimon, a lawyer and a resident of the ranch, was shot at short range in both knees while filming, without being a threat to police.

Eight people were arrested at the ranch, including the outpost's leader Itay Zar.
The action set off a string of protests throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Gershon Mesika, head of the Samaria regional council, canceled a tribute to the Samaria Division of the army, scheduled for Monday. He also called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to establish a state inquiry committee and hold a wide-ranging investigation, "at the end of which whoever gave the insane order to fire at Jews will be ejected from public service."

"We will never agree to a situation in which the blood of the residents of Samaria is cheaper than that of the terrorists protesting every Friday in Bil'in and Na'alin," Mesika said Monday.

Shimon Weisman, a resident of the ranch and a soldier serving with the Kfir Brigade, announced Monday he plans to defect from his unit and not to return until he and his friends finish rebuilding the tent.

Weisman's declaration was supported Monday by MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Aryeh Eldad, both from National Union.

Right-wing activists also took to the streets in Jerusalem Monday, where some 200 youths blocked the Begin Highway and the Herzl Avenue.

The protesters handed out leaflets saying "Jews don't shoot Jews," and gave snacks to the stranded drivers together with notes apologizing for causing a traffic jam but asking for sympathy to their plight.

Some of them clashed with police, trying to wreck equipment and extract detainees. Police said 20 were arrested in the city.

Twenty intersections in the West Bank were also blocked and on at least one crossroad stones were reportedly thrown at Palestinian cars. Soldiers were handed flyers calling on them to disobey orders.

Activists told Haaretz Monday they were pleased with the protests, noting that it distracted large forces of police from more demolitions.