Were Police Justified in Firing?

Public Security Minister Aharonovitch backed the use of plastic bullets by police against Gilad Farm “rock thrower” but offered no photo evidence.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 2:51 PM

Armed police at Havat Gilad
Armed police at Havat Gilad
Israel news photo: Tatzpit

Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch on Wednesday told the Knesset that police were justified in shooting plastic bullets during the Gilad Farm (Chavat Gilad) demolitions Tuesday, but neither he nor the police offered any photo evidence that the residents attacked police.

The veracity of the police was immediately disproven several hours after the pre-dawn raid on Chavat Gilad, where 15 people were wounded by what were at first thought to have been rubber bullets.

The police said on public radio that the police fired nothing other than paintball guns, but later in the day they admitted that plastic bullets were fired. Mainstream media in Israel have virtually accepted police claims without question and have not commented about the lack of evidence of violence on the part of residents at Chavat Gilad.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak justified the shooting, charging that Chavat Gilad residents attacked law enforcement with officers with massive stone throwing.

However, one of the residents at the demolitions said he saw police with several cameras during the clash, and no photographs have been produced showing rock throwing. The victims of the police violence said no rocks were thrown and that the police shot at random without any provocation.

“There was no danger to the police, and I am stating as a fact that the shooting was intended to punish people, according to a decision by the Defense Minister Ehud Barak," said National Union Knesset Member Uri Ariel at a press conference.

In previous demolitions at Bedouin and Arab villages, police have been confronted by documented violence but never used the weapons employed at Chavat Gilad on Tuesday.

MK Ariel rejected Aharonovitch’s acceptance of the police version of the incident that "only" 11 bullets were fired. "There are police and officers who are lying,” the Knesset Member said. He intends to launch a parliamentary investigation next week.

Orit Struck, Chairman of Human Rights in Judea, demanded that “the Minister disclose the films taken by police officers. A few films taken by settlers prove the exact opposite."

Nationalists are planning a “Day of Rage,” possibly including massive sit-ins at various places around the country, but the first act of “revenge” came Wednesday morning with rebuilding at Chavat Gilad (pictured).

"Our revenge will be to build twice the number of homes that were destroyed," resident Ilana Shimon told the French news agency AFP.