Meron Rapoport / Ha’aretz – 2005-06-14 08:51:43
(June 9, 2005) — The commander of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command has removed an officer for failing to fire rubber-coated bullets or tear gas at demonstrators opposed to the separation fence this past March.
The officer said he did not shoot because there were children among the demonstrating Palestinians.
The commander of the Maccabim Brigade, Colonel Yoni Gadj, confirmed that the officer had been dismissed from his position because, “he should have been more resolute and used the means at his disposal to protect the fence space. This is an operative failure.”
An IDF force entered Budrus village near Modi’in in March, arrested several Palestinian youngsters attending a wedding, and pulled out. Palestinian youngsters, including many children, chased the soldiers. A few hundred meters away from the village, they knocked down approximately 100 meters of the fence, which was under construction.
The officer told an investigation that he decided not to use riot control equipment, such as stun and gas grenades and rubber-coated bullets, because there were women and children in the crowd.
Military sources confirmed that there were children among the Palestinians, but said this did not justify the officer’s conduct.
“He did not report that he had a problem, did not use the riot control weapons at his disposal and did not fire in the air,” a source said. “We expect our officers to be able to deal with difficult situations and prevent the vandalization of IDF property like the fence, and not to give up and back down.”
Following the inquiry, OC Central Command Major General Yair Naveh decided to dismiss the officer from his post as company commander and transfer him to another job.
In another incident involving anti-fence demonstration near Bil’in, it has been become clear that the Prison Services Masada special unit had no authority to make arrests at an protest near Bil’in a month ago. Palestinians and left-wing activists said that the unit’s men went undercover, mingled with demonstrators and threw stones to create a provocation.
The demonstration organizers had decided to hold a non-violent protest.
Gadj confirmed that the undercover men had thrown stones, but added that an inquiry he conducted showed, “one hundred percent,” that they had joined Palestinians who were already throwing stones.
Two Palestinians were arrested at the demonstration — A’alian Abu Rahma and Riad Barnat — on suspicion of attacking one of the undercover men.
Attorney Tamar Peleg of Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual, petitioned the military tribunal against the arrest. The tribunal ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove that the Massada unit was authorized to act in the area.
“Such operations require special authority, and in its absence, the units’ men are not considered public servants or policemen,” the court said, releasing the two suspects on bail.
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