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      Anger in Knesset as Police Backtrack

      MKs were irate Sunday when they found that a police officer who “didn't remember” events at Gilad Farm had signed off on an investigation.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 4/3/2011, 7:20 PM / Last Update: 4/3/2011, 7:27 PM

      Flash 90

      The Knesset Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria, a branch of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is investigating an arrest operation in Havat Gilad (Gilad Farm) one month ago that ended with the use of pneumatic bullets against local civilians.

      Subcommittee head MK Ze'ev Elkin expressed annoyance Sunday over police backtracking during the investigation. “It's strange that the very same deputy-commander of the Judea and Samaria region who, in the previous meeting, could not answer the committee's questions about the eviction at the farm, submitted the conclusions of a police investigation into the matter to the Police Chief just a few hours later,” he said.

      Police have admitted that the number of plastic bullets fired during the incident was, in fact, 15 or so as residents had claimed, and not fewer, as officers had argued.

      Commander Haggai Dotan defended the use of plastic bullets in one hearing. “It is better that police use plastic bullets than batons, which are likely to cause greater injury,” he argued.

      Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Council, disagreed. Plastic bullets can be so dangerous that some foreign police departments have stopped using them altogether, he said.

      In any case, Dayan continued, “From an ethical perspective, putting the type of weapon aside, police should not turn their weapons on civilians. I am willing to lead the fight against Jews in Judea and Samaria who defy the law, but in this incident the police, as has been happening in recent weeks, turned on innocent people who had not put up any resistance.”

      Another police claim later proven false was that ski masks had been used during the operation simply due to the cold, and not as a matter of planning. In fact, the committee found, officers at the scene had been ordered in advance to wear the masks.

      MK Gidon Ezra (Kadima) spoke in defense of police, and accused their opponents of hypocrisy. “It's strange that the settlers don't oppose the police when they use methods of riot dispersal against Palestinians in Bilin,” he said. “We must remember that this is our only police force, and the leaders in Judea and Samaria must oppose those who do whatever they please.”

      PA Arabs hold frequent riots in Bilin against the construction of a barrier between their village and central Israel. Several officers have been wounded in the riots.